When: 7:00 PM AZ Time (9:00 PM east coast)
Where: Here, in the valley, at Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Well, that was a bad weekend for the Suns, finishing off their promising 5-game road trip with a pair of duds to finish 2-3 in that stretch.
The Nets aren’t fairing any better, losing four straight after starting the year 3-2.
One of these teams gets to smile again after the final buzzer sounds. Will it be the Suns?
Led by D’Angelo Russell, the Brooklyn Nets stormed out of the gates this season with a better-than expected three wins in their first five games, including wins over the surprising Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers (these two teams are surprising in their own special way).
But the Nets are in a tough spot with a lot of roster limitations. (Maybe they need a veteran point guard? Hmmm?). Give Sean Marks some credit for acquiring actual talent over the past twelve months, and Kenny Atkinson credit for coaching them up. But it’s going to be a while before the Nets are a proud franchise again.
D’Angelo Russell has only been a Net for a few months, but he already symbolizes their entire roster. Like D-Lo, the Nets are exciting and flashy at times (scored 111+ points in 8 of 9 games), but defensively bereft (28th in the league; surrendered 120+ points in 6 of 9 games).
Russell has had a great start to the season, leading the team with 21.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. He also pulls down 4.5 rebounds and grabs 1.3 steals per game. He’s not shooting it well (29.5% on threes, 44% overall), but that’s what happens when you’re a bad team’s biggest offensive threat.
But he’s not their only threat. Kenny Atkinson coaches a fast (#1 overall in pace), balanced attack with seven players averaging 10+ points per game. Former Wildcat Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the Nets’ second leading scorer (15.7 per game).
In seven games under Jay Triano (with 5 of them on the road), the young Suns are ranked 12th on offense and 20th on defense with a 4-3 record. Not a bad run, I have to say.
T.J. Warren’s week mirrored the Suns’. He had a couple of incredibly exciting games (60 points on 34 shots plus 22 rebounds in two wins) followed immediately by another mysterious head injury bookended by poor games (23 points on 23 shots in two losses).
Devin Booker fell off in Sunday’s loss to the Spurs (9 points on 11 shots), held under 10 points for the first time since last February.
If Booker and Warren struggle, the Suns struggle as a team.
27-year old rookie Mike James has vacillated between red hot (24 points on 16 shots against the Nets) to ice, ice cold. Four of his last six games have featured 25% or less shooting.
Dragan Bender still can’t find the range on his shot, but he’s providing the most consistent defense on the team and just simply makes winning plays most of the time. He’s getting 20+ minutes per night these days - and let’s not forget he’s still just 19 years old.
It’s not really a matchup, per se, but let’s see how close best friends Devin Booker and D’Angelo Russell can finish in the box score.
Last week, Book finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while Russell posted 33, 6 and 4. Book took 22 shots while Russell took 21.
The Suns need to get that depressing weekend off their minds and re-focus on making the home crowd happy.
Expect the league’s two fastest teams (possessions per game) to light up the scoreboard and deliver a handful of highlight plays. Should be fun to watch.
I’ll guess a Suns win: 133-128
With a win, the Suns would have their first three-game home winning streak since March of last year.