When: 6:30PM AZ Time
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Watch: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass
The Phoenix Suns' (12-21) season ended the day after Christmas. While everyone else enjoyed their presents, the Suns got dual lumps of coal in the form of a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and a season-ending injury to Eric Bledsoe. With their hitherto best player relegated to elf on the shelf, coach Jeff Hornacek is both free to -- and forced to -- experiment with youth and chemistry to find working rotations for the remainder of the season. This is essentially a team reboot as the dream of the 8-seed is dying and the dream of a high lottery pick is being born.
In their first game without Bledsoe, Phoenix put up a spirited effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers, falling short in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter. There is no respite in the schedule for the Suns as the Eastern Conference's best team is now followed by the Western Conference's second best team.
The San Antonio Spurs (27-6) are playing what can only be described as beautiful basketball right now. Their passing and ball movement is unparalleled in the NBA. I mean...
Pair that kind of of offensive precision with say... the best defensive rating in the NBA (giving up a scant 94.9 points per 100 possessions) and you've got the stuff nightmares are made of for opposing teams. Especially opposing teams with below average defenses and a burgeoning youth movement.
The Phoenix Suns should probably not entertain the idea of winning this game. Despite the Golden State Warriors' amazing win-loss record, the Spurs are basically 1B to their 1A. As has been the case for what seems like the last 20 years, resistance is futile. They are the Borg and opposing teams will be assimilated into their win column.
So what hope do Suns fans have while watching this game? Lots of minutes for Brandon Knight, Devin Booker and TJ Warren at the 1, 2 and 3 spots. Booker and TJ have been a joy to watch so far and I expect if the reins continue to loosen, the fun should only continue.
I'd like to see Knight slow his game down and focus on facilitating the offense. He's demonstrated his ability to get his shot off at will, but he needs to be able to use that threat to initiate offense for his teammates to take his game to a superstar level. One of the silver linings of the Bledsoe injury is that Knight is now forced into the role of primary playmaker. Now is Jeff Hornacek's chance to tailor an offensive scheme to Knight's game and vice versa without bruising the ego of his (other) star point guard.
As for the rest of the frontcourt, we'll see if there's any return to the rotation for Markieff Morris, or if Hornacek will continue to fill the gaping hole at power forward with a Jon Leuer-Mirza Teletovic platoon. I kind of hope Morris rides pine (trade value be damned) because at this point, I want to watch fun basketball and Morrisball is basically the opposite of that.
I'm not holding out any hopes for seeing an improvement on defense here. Phoenix is going to get carved up by a San Antonio Spurs team that is basically playing a different game than the Suns are at this point. I'll be shocked if the Suns stay within 20. But between Phoenix's youth and exuberance and the Spurs' flawless execution, it should be a relatively painless and fun game to watch. Frankly, the best thing these young Suns could do is watch and learn from a superior San Antonio squad.
Prediction: 101-83, Spurs with some jaw-dropping set plays from San Antonio and a couple of giddy highlights from Booker and Warren.