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Game Preview: Suns host Warriors, 3PM Sunday

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The Phoenix Suns (0-2) host the Golden State Warriors (1-1) in a Sunday afternoon matinee at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Golden State Warriors

When: 3:00PM AZ time today

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

TV: FoxSports Arizona

Radio: Probably 620 AM, depending on Cardinals coverage

The Phoenix Suns offer up their second home game of the season, coming off a lackluster and wholly disappointing effort on opening night last Wednesday. A near-capacity crowd went home with no reason to attend another game they hadn’t already prepaid for.

So, it’s a good thing the Suns are hosting the two-time Finals-appearing Warriors today, who will sell out the arena all by themselves often enough. The Suns need one more chance to show they can be fun to watch, and this is it.

After you’re done watching the Cardinals this morning, check out the Suns game either down at the arena or on TV or radio. Should be a fun game to watch, regardless of the score.

Last season - Warriors sweep

Last year against the Suns, the Golden State Warriors put up 135, 123, 112 and 128 points against the Suns porous defense on the way to winning all four matchups.

You might want to blame the Suns’ injuries on those losses, but two of them occurred before Bledsoe, Knight and Warren went down.

That November 27 game is difficult to forget. The Suns played hard, but the Warriors poured 15 of their first 20 and 22 threes on 38 attempts overall. The mercurial Stephen Curry scored 41 points in only 30 minutes of play, while GS’s second-leading scorer that night was our own Leandro Barbosa, who dropped 21 points on 8/9 from the field, 5/5 on threes in only 23 minutes.

That win ran the Warriors record to 17-0 on the season, while dropping the playoff-hopeful Suns to 7-9. T.J. Warren scored 28 points on the Warriors off the bench, while Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe had 21 points each, with 12 assists and only 4 turnovers between them. The game was small-ball crazy, with Len and Chandler only putting in 13 minutes of work combined.

Much more forgettable, I’m sure, was that February 10 game against Golden State (48-4 by then), even though the Suns held GS to a “low” 112-point score. Just 2.5 months after the game I just recapped, the Suns were a shell of their early-season selves.

Just look at this lineup that somehow only lost by only 8 points to a 73-win team.

For the Warriors, while Steph (26) and Klay Thompson (24) had good games, once again your friendly neighborhood Brazilian Blur was the Dubs’ third leading scorer (12).

In the Suns’ final tilt against Golden State last year, on March 12, the home team yet again kept it close before losing 123-116 this time. You might recall Brandon Knight making seven straight shots at one point to give the Suns the lead before the Warriors pulled away in the 4th.

That’s two straight games against the Warriors where birthday-boy Booker had 10+ assists, by the way. Alex Len was a monster for the Suns in this game - one of Len’s best of the year, and at the PF position no less. His 26 points and 13 rebounds were impactful despite being a -12 on the night.

Today’s Warriors

The Warriors are even better this year than last year. Or they “should” be. I use quotes because adding another Top-5 player in Kevin Durant to Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green should make the Warriors unbeatable, yet their early-season returns show they need work.

This year’s Warriors are 1-1, getting pummeled by the Spurs on opening night, then barely edging the Pelicans on Friday (who got pummeled by the Spurs on Saturday).

The Warriors clearly have an offensive edge over any team in the league, but their parts don’t yet fit perfectly together as a team. That their 5th leading scorer is Zaza Pachulia at 6.0 points per game and their defensive rating is DEAD LAST in the league tells you where they are weak so far.

Think about that dead-last defensive rating for Golden State.

By contrast, the Suns who in two games lost by 19 to the #Kangs and gave up the first 50/10/10 game in 41 years, are ranked 16th in the league on defense so far.

GS is having trouble rebounding the ball without Bogut and Ezeli in the middle, so far ranking 29th in defensive rebound rate. From the field, they are allowing opponents to make 51.8% on Effective Field Goal rate (25th in the league).

The Suns

Enough about Golden State.

Where do the Suns rank so far? The Suns are ranked 16th in defense after two games by generating lots of turnovers (8th overall) and holding opponents to 49.2% effective field goal rate (16th). Perfectly average, but hey that’s a lot better than last year.

If you’re asking about what scheme the Suns are playing, that’s a difficult question. But looking at the stats, it’s clear the Suns want their opponent shooting mid-range shots - the most inefficient shot on the court. And so far, it’s working.

Suns are 2nd in the league, after two games, at enticing the opponent to take a mid-range shot (27.5 shots per game, second only to Atlanta) while ranking a respectable mid-pack on shots allowed in the restricted area and top-10 in allowing the fewest three-point attempts.

For example, while Wednesday’s game was a poor job of execution, you might remember that most of Sacramento’s damage was between the paint and the three-point line. The Suns pick-and-roll defense had the big dropping all the way into the paint. This is similar to Portland’s scheme, which isn’t a surprise given Watson and Triano’s experience there. Not saying the Suns are executing it well, but so far the results show the Suns are getting opponent to take the shots they want them to take.

It’s only two games, but it’s a start.

Offensively, the Suns are much more confusing so I won’t even go there yet. All we know so far is that Watson wants them to either take threes (he wants 30 per night) or attack the basket. Good plan. Just looks ugly at times right now.

Matchup to watch

There’s so many fun matchups to watch in this game, just take your pick. Steph/Bled, Klay/Book, Livingston/Knight, Zaza/Tyson...

But there IS one we probably won’t see that totally intrigues me. I would love, some day soon, to see how well Dragan Bender could defend Kevin Durant. Bender’s length and lateral quickness might be unusually effective against the lanky Durant.

In the meantime, don’t be too disappointed in T.J. Warren’s bull fighter effort today. Warren just doesn’t have the length or lateral quickness to keep Durant under control.

Prediction

Not good, Bob.

There’s no reason to think the Suns at this point in time will upset the Warriors. The Suns just don’t have all their ducks in a row yet. Even if they bring the effort, the Warriors are just too talented to lose this game.

So, go into this game with eyes wide open.

Cheer for good plays, and cheer harder for good stretches of success. And don’t get too frustrated when the Warriors go on a 20-0 run in a span of 3 minutes at one point.

Have fun today.

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