Time: 6 pm (local)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns (3-7) travel to Oakland on the second night of a back-to-back to face the rested Golden State Warriors (7-2). In other news, scientists prove the NBA’s scheduling algorithm hates the Suns.
The Warriors have had their difficulties after supercharging their offense at the expense of their defense in the offseason. With Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Durant and Zaza Pachulia, it has taken the Warriors a few games to settle into their groove. Over their last three, however, Golden State has looked closer to what everyone expected to see from the NBA’s super-duper team.
Durant leads them in scoring at 27.6 points per game, but Stephen Curry, who took some time to find his shooting eye, has closed in on Durant, averaging 26.9 points and recently breaking the NBA’s record for made 3-pointers in a single game with 13 on Nov. 7 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Klay Thompson, the third man in the band, has been even more off than Curry to start the year but over his last two games has shot 15 of 27 from the field, including seven of 11 from beyond the arc. Draymond Green still does it all for the Warriors, from rebounds to defense to cup checks. After those four players, though, the Warriors’ production falls off a cliff. Key role players Andre Iguodala, Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, and David West have all lagged behind their previous season’s performances.
Golden State ranks 16th in the NBA in defensive rating (103.7) but is trending towards last season’s 100.9 number. Their defense ranks 10th in the league in opponent 3-point percentage (33.2 percent) and 12th for opponent field goal percentage (44 percent). They are also 1st in the NBA for steals per game (10.3) and rank in the top 10 for blocks at 5.6 despite missing Bogut’s presence. They remain dominant as usual on offense, leading the NBA with 114.6 points per game on a league-leading 50.2 percent from the field. Oh, and their 30.3 assists per game is also 1st in the league.
Points: Kevin Durant (27.6)
Rebounds: Draymond Green (10.4)
Assists: Draymond Green (6.7)
After losing the getaway game to the Brooklyn Nets last night, the Suns begin a six-game road trip tonight that will schlep them across the country and back. Looking at the slate of games, the Suns could conceivably return to Phoenix with a 4-2 record if things go well, so let’s keep that in mind when watching the game tonight.
Scoring duties have primarily been handled by Devin Booker (20.3 points) and T.J. Warren (20 points) to start the season, but both have found life more difficult on the front page of the scouting report. Speaking of difficult, Phoenix’s projected top scorers entering the season — Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and Brandon Knight — shot a combined eight of 39 (20.5 percent) from the field against Brooklyn. Fortunately, others have stepped up. Jared Dudley is currently tied for 4th in the NBA for 3-point percentage at 48.5 percent and has scored 19 and 17 points in his last two games off the bench. Alex Len posted his second straight double-double against the Nets as he starts for Tyson Chandler, who is away from the team after the death of his mother. On rookie watch, Marquese Chriss had his best game as a pro yesterday, with 16 points in 18 minutes, and Dragan Bender was productive in his eight minutes as well, scoring five points. Tyler Ulis even saw 11 minutes of court time.
The Suns’ free throw shooting has rebounded to 76.5 percent from early in the season, and Phoenix presently ranks 1st in the NBA for rebounds per game at 48.1. The numbers start to look less positive from there. Despite averaging 107.2 points per game (8th in the league), Phoenix surrenders a league-worst 113.9 points per game. That number is mitigated by Phoenix’s league-leading pace, but no matter how you slice it, the Suns still surrender more points than they score. Making matters worse, the Suns allow their opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from 3 (25th in the league) and rank 28th in 3-point percentage (29.4 percent), 28th in assists (18.7), and 30th in blocks (3.2).
Points: Devin Booker (20.3)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (13.3)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (5.2)
Tyson Chandler (Suns): personal reasons (OUT)
Damian Jones (Warriors): torn right pectoral muscle (OUT)
The Warriors are coming off three straight wins and have not played since Thursday when they beat the Denver Nuggets 125-101.
In the last meeting between these two teams, the Warriors snuck past the Suns in Phoenix 106-100. Durant led the way with 37 points, and Curry wasn’t far behind with 28. The Suns managed to capitalize on the Warriors lack of cohesion and uncharacteristically poor 3-point shooting to keep things close, but the problem is that Golden State hasn’t shot below 45 percent from 3 in its last three games and are slowly gelling as a unit. Phoenix has to run the Warriors off the 3-point line to have a chance to win, but that might be asking a bit much considering the stacked deck they face in this game.
Klay Thompson vs. Devin Booker
There are a number of matchups that will be important as this game unfolds, but the Suns cannot win if they allow three Warriors to get going. Durant and Curry are two of the most dynamic offensive threats in the game today, but Thompson has been mired in a slump and even with a couple promising performances hasn’t proven to be completely free of its effects yet. If Booker, who is mired in a slump of his own (averaging 11 points in his last two games), can win his matchup with Thompson, he gives Phoenix a fighting chance. If Thompson is allowed to go off and be a third weapon, the Suns are toast.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
Since 1963-64, only two players have ever scored in double figures in their NBA debut only to go scoreless in their next three appearances. Phoenix’s Dragan Bender was the most recent, joining Wayne “The Wayne” Radford from the 1978-79 season. Radford scored six points in his fifth appearance to break the streak; Bender scored 10 points in his fifth appearance to one-up The Wayne.
(Deadpoolio note: I don’t know that Wayne Radford’s nickname was The Wayne, but if it’s not, it should be.)