Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors
Time: 8:30 pm (local)
TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The 11-15 Phoenix Suns, losers Monday night in Dallas, find themselves in Oakland tonight to take on the recently blemished Golden State Warriors (24-1), who defeated Phoenix 135-116 in Phoenix on Nov. 27 on the back of Stephen Curry's 41 points.
The Warriors lost their first game of the season on Saturday to the Milwaukee Bucks as they wrapped up a seven-game road trip. Golden State has been off since then, waiting at home for the Suns' visit. The Warriors have taken four straight from the Suns dating back to last season by an average of 14.3 points per game.
The Warriors lead the league in team field goal percentage (.487) and 3-point percentage (.425) while boasting a top 10 defensive rating of 101.7. Point guard and league MVP Stephen Curry is making a strong case for the award again this season, as he leads the NBA in scoring and has hit a remarkable 127 3-pointers through the first 25 games of the season, putting him on pace to make 417 this season. That would shatter the previous record of 286 set by Curry in 2014-15. Curry hasn't been alone, either. Draymond Green is averaging 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7 assists and just recently put up the NBA's first 5x5 game since Nicolas Batum on Dec. 16, 2012. Klay Thompson is the Warriors' second-leading scorer at 17.9 points per game. Harrison Barnes, who hasn't played since spraining his left ankle against the Suns on Nov. 27, will sit out tonight.
Points: Stephen Curry (32.3)
Rebounds: Draymond Green (8.7)
Assists: Draymond Green (7.0)
The Suns made the Dallas Mavericks look like world beaters again, losing to them for the second time this season on Monday. Dallas used a small lineup to eviscerate the Suns' defense, which has struggled to adjust to teams going small all season. An unlikely lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Sonny Weems, T.J. Warren, and Jon Leuer made the game interesting late but ultimately couldn't dig the Suns out of their 3rd quarter hole.
Phoenix remains on unstable footing more than a quarter of the way through the season. With most free agents now eligible to be moved, the trade winds are howling around Markieff Morris, who hasn't gotten any playing time since Dec. 7 and any meaningful time since Dec. 4. The return of Tyson Chandler from his hamstring strain has also left coach Jeff Hornacek with a minutes juggling act, as he tries to keep Alex Len in rhythm while finding time for the team's best defender, who is — temporarily, at least — coming off the bench. Then there is the uncertainty of which Brandon Knight will show up on any given night. His games recently have had more spikes and crashes than my blood sugar after a plate of Christmas brownies. None of this bodes well against the NBA's best team.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (22.3)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (8.2)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.5)
Harrison Barnes (Warriors): sprained left ankle (OUT)
Kevon Looney (Warriors): hip surgery (OUT)
Golden State hasn't lost a regular-season home game since Jan. 27, 2015, which means Phoenix will have to be on top of its game to have a chance to win tonight.
The last meeting between these two teams saw Curry go for 41 points but also saw the Warriors' bench score 51 points, led by Leandro Barbosa's 21. The Suns cannot allow Golden State's bench to do that kind of damage. Likewise, they cannot allow the Warriors to shoot 56.8 percent from the field and make 22 of 38 3-pointers. Pretty much, they cannot play the way they did back in November. Unfortunately, the Suns have not shown an ability to learn from their early-season failures, as evidenced by their game against Dallas.
Even more disconcerting is the reminder that Golden State owns the NBA's best field goal percentage while Phoenix is second-worst in opponent field goal percentage. You may need to avert your eyes at times tonight.
Stephen Curry vs. Phoenix's guards
The Suns cannot allow Curry to drop another 40-point bomb on them if they want any hope of winning this game. Bledsoe, Knight, and Ronnie Price must all take the challenge defensively of running him off the 3-point line, but just as importantly, they must make Curry work on defense. The Warriors like to stick Thompson on opposing team's point guards to hide Curry defensively, but with both Bledsoe and Knight on the floor, one will always have an opportunity to attack Curry on offense. Phoenix cannot allow him to save his energy for one end of the court.
One Last Thing...
Just remember, Suns: The Warriors are very good, but Milwaukee proved they can be beaten.