Wow, what a difference a week makes.
Last Sunday, the Phoenix Suns were thisclose to a 5-1 road trip, leading OKC 91-86 to start the 4th quarter despite Steve Nash running around on a hobbled "midsection". A win would have put the Suns into 8th position, ahead of Memphis with 3 home games one the docket. Sure, they were tough outs, but neither Houston, Denver nor Orlando had won in Phoenix in eons.
This was it. This was the Suns' time. In fact, 8th-seed Memphis helped the Suns by merely splitting their last 4 games (against Dallas, OKC, NY and Miami). And the Suns schedule includes 3 meetings with 7th seeded, but fading, New Orleans. Watch out playoffs, here come the Suns!
But alas, it was not meant to be. The Suns lost to OKC in overtime, lost Frye to injury, barely beat Houston, lost Nash to injury and were pummeled by Denver and Orlando.
Ugh. Bad week in the desert.
Can the ship be righted? Of course. The Suns are still only 1.5 games out of the playoff picture, and still face 7th-seeded Hornets 3 times before the end of the season.
But forget the playoffs for a minute.
Focus today on an epic HEAD to HEAD matchup. Where the Suns' player is the big brother, and the former understudy is the one who has to prove himself.
LLLLL-Let's get ready to RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE!
Monday - Houston Rockets
In last week's game against the Rockets, we were all worried about the backup PG matchup - Goran Dragic vs. Aaron Brooks - because they were traded for each other.
But guess what we forgot? That maybe Houston PG Kyle Lowry wanted to prove something. Lowry went off for 32 points on 11-18 shooting (7-11 on threes) and the Suns only won because Vince Carter and Hakim Warrick exploded for 64 points between them.
Expect Lowry to want to prove it even harder in his home arena, but also expect Brooks to light it up as well. Brooks, who went 0-6 in that game last week, had the double-whammy of his first game IN Phoenix and his first game AGAINST the Rockets.
This time, it's even more personal. If Nash sits out Monday, Aaron Brooks will go head to head against Lowry as starting point guards for their respective teams.
These guys played together for 2.5 seasons.
In 2008-2009, second-year PG Aaron Brooks started the last 35 games (13 pts, 3.7 assists, 39% 3-pt, 30.8 mins) after Rafer Alston was traded to Orlando. Kyle Lowry was acquired midseason from Memphis and played 21 minutes a game as Brooks' backup (7.6 pts, 3.6 assists, 25% 3-pt). The Rockets went 26-9 with Brooks as the starter - remember, that was when the Rockets ran off 22 straight wins without Ming or McGrady. Little Aaron Brooks was the PG during that run. Brooks was even more effective in 13 playoff games - 16.8 points, 3.4 assists, 42% 3-pt, 34 mins. The Rockets eventually fell to the Lakers in 7 games in the second round, after losing Yao Ming early in the series.
In 2009-2010, Brooks started all 82 games and won the league's Most Improved Player award. He averaged 19.6 pts, 5.3 assists, 39% 3-pt, 35.6 mins, and led the league the 3-pointers made. Lowry backed him up again for 68 games with 9 pts, 4.5 assists, 27% 3-pt on 24.7 minutes. They often played together as well, for 10+ minutes a night. The Rockets went 42-40 with Brooks as the starter, despite having lost Ron Artest and Yao Ming since the prior season and having no superstars on the team.
Then Brooks wanted an extension on his rookie deal, much like Dudley wanted (and got) his. Why did he want to get paid? Maybe because in his first 3 seasons he had an overall 68-49 record as a starter, led them to a near-upset of LA, won the MIP award, and led the league in 3-pointers.
When Houston didn't meet his demands, he sulked. Then he got hurt, and Kyle Lowry took his starting job while Brooks rehabbed. Lowry has stepped in very nicely with averages of 13.2 pts, 6.6 assists, 39% 3-pt on 33 minutes, with the Rockets going 31-28 with Lowry as the starter so far this season.
But did he really beat out Brooks? Or did he take advantage of a situation to become the starter? Now you know why Lowry really wanted to prove himself last week, and likely will want to do it again on Monday night.
But so should Aaron Brooks.
Hopefully, Brooks is enough of an alpha dog to show off his talent to the Houston faithful. He's got the starting gig, with Nash nursing an injury. All the minutes he wants. Playing with a team just as talented as his old one.
This is gonna be good.
BROOKS vs. LOWRY. May the smallest man win.
Scola is likely out again. No word on whether his knee is any better since missing the past week+ of games.