TODAY: PHOENIX Suns at Rockets When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Toyota Center.
Records: Rockets 39-23; Suns 34-27.
TV/radio: FSH; 610 AM, 850 AM (Spanish).
Key matchup: Yao Ming vs. Shaquille O'Neal. When they met in Phoenix, Yao and O'Neal had one of the rare games in which both were outstanding, with O'Neal scoring 18 points and getting 13 rebounds and Yao scoring 17 with 15 rebounds in the Rockets' win.
Rockets update: The Rockets bring a season-long 10-game home winning streak into their only Toyota Center meeting with the Suns this season. They have struggled with the Suns in Houston, winning just two of the past nine meetings, but won 94-82 in Phoenix in November. The Rockets have won eight of their past 10 games.
Suns update: Phoenix has won six of 10 since the All-Star break but lost the first two games of its four-game road trip to Florida and Texas. Since the switch from Terry Porter to Alvin Gentry and the return to the up-tempo style from the Mike D'Antoni years, the Suns have averaged 122.7 points. Third in the NBA in scoring, they are the league's top shooting team and are fifth in 3-point shooting. Forward Amare Stoudemire is out following eye surgery.
Playing it straight
After a tough night battling Mehmet Okur and the Utah Jazz left Yao Ming frustrated with the officiating, he considered the bright side of the Rockets' game tonight against the Phoenix Suns: Shaquille O'Neal generally plays him straight up.
The problem is that O'Neal, who celebrates his 37th birthday today, has gone through an impressive revival. He has averaged 26.2 points in the past five games, making 69.7 percent of his shots.
"I know Shaq is playing very well now," Yao said. "He seems like he turned his clock back. I think next game is another team coming that is behind us. They are hungry to win to try to get into the playoffs. We need to prepare for that.
"Shaq, however old he is, when he steps on the court, you have to pay attention to him."
Asked if he prefers even a tough, "straight-up" matchup against O'Neal to the fronting and double-teaming defenses that he usually sees, Yao said, "Yeah, straight up. Not fall down."
Getting the point
Though Jazz guard Deron Williams took over Wednesday's game late and finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, Rockets coach Rick Adelman saw progress in his point-guard committee.
Aaron Brooks started well, scoring eight first-quarter points. Kyle Lowry took over in the second half, scoring all 14 of his points and keying the Rockets' comeback from a 13-point deficit with two minutes left in the third quarter to a fourth-quarter tie.
"I thought (Lowry) was very good," Adelman said. "I liked the way he played. I think that combination with him and Aaron is going to be very good. Kyle was very aggressive tonight. That's the way he's got to play. I was really pleased with him."
Lowry was particularly effective getting penetration to score at the rim or draw fouls.
"They were making their run," Lowry said. "When I came in, I made a conscious effort to get to the basket and get some free throws up there and try to stop the bleeding. I tried to get in the lane. I did a good job of doing that."
Down in the Valley
The Rockets will play the Boston Celtics in a preseason game on Oct. 7 at Dodge Arena in McAllen, the home of the Rockets' NBA Development League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Rockets also will hold several days of training camp in the Rio Grande Valley.
Ready to run
After a night against the Jazz and their physical half-court style, Rockets guard Aaron Brooks welcomed a chance to run with the fast-paced Suns. Though the Suns use Steve Nash in pick-and-rolls much as the Jazz use Deron Williams, they look to run much more often.
"The NBA is a game of adjustments," Brooks said. "It's two different styles. I'm a quick player, so I'm kind of looking forward to that one more than this one because they are not as physical. I think we can adapt either way."