The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, losers of 6 of their last 7
The Bad Guys: The Washington Wizards, losers of 5 of their last 6
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
When: 5:00 PM Arizona time
Radio: AZ Sports 98.7 FM
What is there to say about the Phoenix Suns that you haven't already heard over the past few days? The fanbase is understandably frustrated after the team dropped two close, winnable games against the Nets and Pistons. Now at 8-11 and sitting tied for the 9th seed in the West, those two losses could come back to haunt the Suns in March and April if they're still fighting for a playoff spot.
For a while the Suns were one of the NBA's few teams to be top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Just a couple of weeks later, they have the 22nd best defense with a rating of 105.1. They have surrendered at least 120 points to the opposing team four times in the past two weeks.
What gives? Tyson Chandler has been out for a couple of games, but on paper the Suns still have the personnel to be effective on the defensive end. A starting lineup that includes Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker and Alex Len should be able to close out games on defense.
Still, the Suns find themselves experimenting with lineups and looking for a working combination.
The Washington Wizards
Luckily for the Suns, the Wizards are one of the few NBA teams currently having just as much trouble.
Washington had an impressive 12-point road win against Cleveland on December 1st, but other than that they have struggled. In the past two weeks they lost by 17 to Indiana, 14 to Charlotte, 33 to Boston, 2 to Toronto and 4 to the Lakers.
On the bright side, John Wall looks like John Wall again. The former first overall pick got through all of November without a single 20-point game, but he followed up a poor month with a 35-point performance against Cleveland and a 34-point performance the following day against the purple and gold. In both games he shot well over 50 percent from the field and also dished out double-digit assists.
Then there's Bradley Beal, who has been a very consistent player throughout his career. Beal is still a sharpshooter, knocking down 37 percent of his threes while scoring a career-high 18.8 points per game. But he's never made the jump that Wizards fans originally expected from him after an impressive rookie campaign. This is now Beal's 4th season, and he still has yet to post a PER above the league-average 15.0.
The Wizards are the worst team in the league in rebounding and blocks per game, so this should be a night where the Suns can thrive. Even if Tyson Chandler is still out, Washington's lack of available bigs should let the guards have a great night.
Tyson Chandler will miss his 4th consecutive game with a hamstring strain. Markieff is questionable.
The Wizards are a lot more battered, especially in the frontcourt. Marcin Gortat is out, having just returned to Poland to tend to a family emergency. Nene and Drew Gooden are questionable with calf injuries, and Kris Humphries is questionable with an ankle problem.
If none of those guys play, that leaves Dudley/Porter as the forwards in a small lineup, with Blair and Ryan Hollins as the only two available centers. Neither Blair nor Hollins have eclipsed 100 minutes played yet this season.
The Suns will finally get it together. If Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are going to be challenged by Dudley, Porter and Blair in the paint, they will have a field day. John Wall and Beal will pose substantial problems for the Suns as well, but at least Alex Len can provide some interior defense and rebounding to give Phoenix the advantage. The Suns have just as good a backcourt as Washington with a healthier set of bigs, and that makes it hard not to give them the nod.
Suns win 105-91.