The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns
The Evil Empire: The San Antonio Spurs
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio
When: 6:30 P.M. Arizona Time
TV: Fox Sports AZ
Radio: AZ Sports 98.7 FM
Last night's loss against the New Orleans Pelicans was a close one, but the Suns will have to quickly transition their focus to another tough foe tonight.
After all these years the Spurs are still one of the NBA's top teams. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are all still there, but fresher faces are allowing the franchise to stay relevant after all this time. 24-year-old Kawhi Leonard is having a career year, averaging 21.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from downtown.
Then you have LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs' top acquisition of the 2015 offseason. Aldridge missed the team's last game against Memphis with a sprained ankle, and he remains questionable for tonight. But despite a slow start and a smaller usage rate Aldridge is starting to adjust to his new team, averaging 15.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game under Gregg Popovich.
The Suns would probably be happy to not have to go up against Aldridge tonight. But even if that is the case, they haven't had a great amount of success against Duncan and Leonard in the past either. To make matter worse, the Spurs remain virtually unstoppable at home, where they have opened the season with six straight victories.
Still, there's hope for the Suns. The team has shot 32-for-63 from deep (51 percent) over the past two games against the Pelicans and Nuggets, and should that level of sharpshooting continue they will give the Spurs a close game. However, the Suns shot much too poorly inside the paint against New Orleans to seal the win and will have to do a better job of finishing.
One bright spot from last night's game was Markieff Morris, who finally looked like his old self. Morris finished the game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in addition to making some tough shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Both Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe have been fantastic to start the year, but the Suns will need more scoring performances like that one out of Morris if they want to remain competitive. When Morris struggles the entire starting frontcourt contributes very little offensively, putting too much pressure on the guards.
If Aldridge sits, expect David West to take his place as was the case against Memphis. West, a two-time All-Star, is getting only 15.4 minutes per game in the crowded San Antonio frontcourt but has made the most of it. His efficiency has skyrocketed, as he is currently shooting 58 percent from the field.
This is only the Suns' second SEGABABA (second game of a back-to-back) this season, and those types of games can be tough even on young legs. I've come to expect Knight and Bledsoe to show up every game at this point, but the rest of the team is a big question mark. It's hard to pick the Suns in this match up.
Spurs win, 106-99.