Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena; Phoenix, AZ
When: Saturday, April 4th. 7:00 pm AZ time (10:00 p.m. EST)
Watch/Listen: Fox Sports AZ / Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Locally)
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns will take on the Utah Jazz at home after what was probably their best loss of the season...if such a thing exists. The Suns played great against the Golden State Warriors, on the road at Oracle Arena this past Thursday night. And if not for another last second shot that won the game for the Warriors, the Suns would have shocked the world on a national stage. But like so many other things this season, it simply wasn't meant to be.
As for the Utah Jazz, they have experienced a tremendous resurgence after the All-Star break. Their record may indicate otherwise, but they are playing like a Western Conference playoff team at the moment. In fact, they are 15-7 since that time...that would make them the 6th best team in the league during this period.
How are they doing it? Well, they currently rank number one in the league when it comes to points allowed by the opponent since the break, holding the opposition to merely 86.6 points per game on average. The Memphis Grizzlies, who are in second, are nearly eight points worse at 94.9 points allowed, on average.
So if you were expecting this to be one of the easier remaining games for the Suns, think again. The good news? The pressure is off, and wins and losses simply don't matter at this point. It's all about developing players, and team chemistry for the future now.
Tale of the Tape:
Probable Starting Lineups:
Eric Bledsoe vs. Dante Exum
P.J. Tucker vs. Joe Ingles
Marcus Morris vs. Gordon Hayward
Markieff Morris vs. Derrick Favors
Brandan Wright vs. Rudy Gobert
Injuries - Suns: Alex Len (Out; Nose), Brandon Knight (Doubtful; Ankle). Jazz: Alec Burks (Out; Shoulder), Rodney Hood (Day-to-Day)
What To Watch For:
- The Wright Stuff vs. The Stifle Tower- Things could change, but as it stands right now, Rudy Gobert has proven to be the best big man in his draft class...and yes, that includes Alex Len, who was the Suns' fifth overall pick in the same year. Len is out with yet another injury, this time to his nose, and Gobert continues to build on his already amazing season. Brandan Wright will get the duty of guarding Gobert, and more importantly, trying to score against him. This will be a huge test for Wright, and a solid outing may give the Suns another reason to pay him the money this summer that it will take to keep him on the roster long term
- Scorin' Warren - T.J. Warren has had an impressive rookie season overall, especially considering his lack of playing time before the All-Star break. Since then, he's averaging 8.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game...and getting even better the more that he plays, He officially had his coming out party against the Warriors, scoring 15 points in the 4th quarter (17 overall), and putting the league on notice. Rookies are often marred by inconsistency, and Warren has been no exception, but he is definitely trending upward, and I'd like to see him put together another great game after his last one.
- Archie Goodwin and Reggie Bullock - Although Archie and Reggie aren't rookies, they are both young players who are looking to find their place in the rotation. Archie has done this already, but his play over the past few games hasn't been very impressive. Over that time, he's averaging only 3.3 points on 35% shooting, and 1 assist in 12.7 minutes of play. Archie needs to step it up and remind the coaching staff and the fans what makes him so special. As for Reggie...He just needs to do something, anything at all. Offensively, he's been a ghost on the court, even when he registered 13 minutes against the Warriors, he scored only one point, grabbed one rebound, and dished one assist. The coaches seem to like his defense, but Bullock needs to fight for his future on the team and show that he can help score as well.
It doesn't really matter at this point, but just for the sake of argument, I'll play along. The Suns are going to be outmatched inside by Gobert and Favors, and I just don't see the Suns being able to keep them out of the paint, or off the glass.
I believe that the only chance the Suns have is if they get hot from the perimeter and force the Jazz to play catch up. But even then, they'll have to contend with Hayward and keep him from scoring, or at least slow him down. Then again, who would have thought the Suns would nearly win on the road against the Warriors?
Either way, I have the Jazz winning this one. Anything's possible, of course, as we've seen this team demonstrate multiple times this season. Still, I'd be surprised if the Suns pull out a win tonight without Alex Len to help battle against the Utah big men.
Suns lose, 96-85