After a silly little dustup between the Suns owner Robert Sarver and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in preseason two weeks ago rekindled a 10 year old slap-fight, the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio face off in an early-season matchup tonight in Phoenix.
Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns will host the San Antonio Spurs on Halloween in what the Suns call an "Orange Friday". That means sleeved, orange jerseys.
Your fondest memories of those jerseys just might be Goran Dragic's 40 point night last spring that culminated in a mobbing by his teammates when he finally checked out of the game as the Suns won.
Fans are asked to come fully decked out in costume. I'll be the one dressed like a reporter, so I should be easy to spot. We won't have any video of post-game, most likely, but if I happen to ask another Suns player about a certain he-who-must-not-be-named I'll be sure to transcribe the question and answer for you over the weekend. I know, you're too kind. Don't get misty eyed. I got your backs.
The Opponent... err, the Borg
The main thing you need to know is the Kawhi Leonard has been cleared to play for the World Champion Spurs against the Suns tonight. And all indications are that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili will play as well despite being "two of the oldest guys in the league". Heck, even coach Gregg Popovich is expected to be there.
Still out are Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter due to injury.
I'm quite looking forward to finding out who will take jabs at who tonight. It was just two weeks ago that the Spurs left most of their players at home and Robert Sarver apologized to Suns fans for the worse-than-expected game and offered a partial refund ($25-50 depending on your seat) upon request. Pop then shot back at Sarver the next day, wondering why Sarver didn't issue the apology in a chicken suit.
Likely, everyone takes the high road tonight. But it sure would be fun to see some more fireworks, and we'll have a few chances in the pre-game scrums. Sarver still owns all mic's in the building, so there's always the chance he'll grab one during the game again. Stay tuned.
The Morris brothers are expected to start for the Suns through the first three games of the season. After one game against the Lakers, this lineup looks quite solid.
Marcus knows this is a trial for the entire season. Just like Markieff never got his starting job back after a suspension to start last year, Marcus hopes the same can hold true of P.J. Tucker's suspension.
"Well it's always possible," coach Hornacek said of the Morris brothers starting. "If we go 3-0, why would we change the lineup? Obviously we have two more games to go, but we really like the effort of those guys - that first group tonight. Eric (Bledsoe) and Goran (Dragic) took turns, were kind of dominating the play there. With Markieff (Morris) and Marcus making the jump shots, it's fun to watch."
Marcus knows the importance of the three games as well. While he said all the right things in his post-game interview, he did acknowledge he's only assuring himself a starting spot if the Suns go 3-0 during Tucker's absence.
Eric Bledsoe left Wednesday's game with a cut lip, but it did not need stitches and he will be good to go tonight.
Alex Len made it through Wednesday with no further injury, though he did say his right pinkie is still broken and likely won't be fully healed for at least a month. He will continue to wear the splint. Don't expect great offense from Len while he's wearing that splint. He can't release the jumper right, and won't want to dunk if he doesn't have to.
It's not worth showing stats quite yet. After one game against the hapless Lakers, the Suns led the NBA in offensive efficiency, effective shooting percentage and true shooting percentage while setting a franchise record for three pointers made in an opening night game.
The Spurs are a whole other ball game.
The (potential) Lineups
The Key Matchup
If the Suns are going to win this game, it will have to be on the heels of the Hydra. Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas will have to shoot and pass well, and will have to play spirited defense to defend the three-point line.
On the other side, Tony Parker and Danny Green DID play in the 30-point blowout loss to the Suns in preseason but we all know the Spurs lock in better as the season progresses. Expect to see Parker waterbug his way to the rim a lot, and Danny Green make 7-10 threes like he did late last season.
Out on a limb
For fantasy players, remember that Eric Bledsoe came just one assist shy of a triple double against the Spurs in that late season game the Suns so badly needed last April. Dragic was out injured, and Bledsoe nearly did a 30-10-10 to carry the Suns. Bled only came up short when he kick out pass to he-who-must-not-be-named resulted in a missed wide open three.
Bledsoe will have to have another game like that, while Dragic will have play Dragon ball in his own right. Finally, watch out for this "out on a limb" prediction: either Anthony Tolliver or Shavlik Randolph will make a big fourth quarter three-pointer, while Marcus Morris will come back down to earth and make less than three 3s of his own.
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It's going to be very tough to beat a Spurs team that just might want to win as a statement game after the silliness of preseason.
The Suns will have to play their best game since early April to take this one at home tonight. Yet after making 16 threes the other night, I have this sinking feeling the Suns will come up empty tonight.
Spurs 101, Suns 95.