Time: 4:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns (22-49) travel to New York on the third leg of their six-city road trip to face the suddenly surging(?) Brooklyn Nets (14-56).
The Nets, playing for nothing but pride at this point, have won three of their last six games, including a 98-96 win over the Detroit Pistons on Mar. 21 that saw Brook Lopez nail the buzzer-beating game winner. For a team that was 9-49 at one point, this constitutes quite the tidal wave of momentum.
Brook Lopez remains as the last cornerstone of a once-proud franchise, leading the team with 20.8 points per game. He could also appear in his most games since the 2010-11 season if he plays in 11 of the Nets’ final 12 games. But beyond Lopez, the Nets are desperate for help. It was hoped that Jeremy Lin would rediscover his Linsanity days when he signed with Brooklyn, but he has played in just 25 games to this point due to injuries. Last year’s rookie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (whose Arizona Wildcats play Xavier in the NCAA Tournament today), has not improved much year over year with inconsistency plaguing him, and this year’s rookie, Caris LeVert, is trying to catch up after missing the first month of the season with his own injury issues. The Nets round out their roster with castoffs and vagabonds who contribute well enough but are playing one or two levels above their ideal roles in an NBA pecking order.
As a team, the Nets don’t do any one thing well statistically, but they’re also not as bad statistically as their record would suggest. Their biggest issue is that they commit the most turnovers in the NBA (16.8) while forcing the 8th fewest (13.0). They also rank in the bottom third of the league for opponent field goal percentage and opponent 3-point percentage. All those easy points result in allowing their opponents to score 113.6 points per game — last in the NBA. The Nets don’t get easy points and lose; their opponents get easy points and win. The NBA in a nutshell.
Points: Brook Lopez (20.8)
Rebounds: Trevor Booker (8.4)
Assists: Jeremy Lin (4.9)
The Suns have lost five games in a row, which ties their longest losing streak of the season. Their first two games of this current road trip have ended in nearly identical fashion, losing 112-95 to the Pistons and 112-97 to the Miami Heat.
The Suns are running Tyler Ulis out for over 41 minutes a night since becoming a starter, and that total might be taking its toll, with Ulis shooting just 31.4 percent over the first two games of this road trip (with 0 of 6 3-point shooting). Devin Booker returned from his one-game rest on Tuesday but looked no better than before it, shooting 4 of 16 from the field for 11 points. With the bench already artificially shortened, much is being asked of those who remain (although Marquese Chriss has responded well to his increased role). This strategy might help the lottery odds, but something about this slapdash approach to the final 11 games feels unwise. (Also, no more Alex Len corner 3 plays. I’m serious.)
Points: Eric Bledsoe (21.1)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (11.4)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.3)
Alan Williams (Suns): illness (QUESTIONABLE)
Ronnie Price (Suns): left leg contusion (QUESTIONABLE)
Dragan Bender (Suns): right ankle surgery (OUT)
Brandon Knight (Suns): black lung (OUT)*
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): cat scratch fever (OUT)*
Tyson Chandler (Suns): imbalanced humors (OUT)*
Jeremy Lin (Nets): right ankle sprain (PROBABLE)
Sean Kilpatrick (Nets): left hamstring soreness (OUT)
Joe Harris (Nets): left shoulder sprain (OUT)
*may not be official
Brooklyn pounded the Suns in Phoenix back on Nov. 12, winning 122-104 to give themselves a 4-5 record at the time. That victory was secured by the Nets with a late 17-0 run in the 4th quarter that the Suns, who shot 37.4 percent for the game, couldn’t answer.
While the thought of the Suns playing a team that has actually managed to win eight fewer games than Phoenix might not seem like a must-see matchup, it will pose an interesting test for Ryan McDonough’s tanking experiment. If this team loses to the Nets — again — he might finally be done “resting” players. If the Suns win, it might leave the question of “resting” Booker and T.J. Warren dangling in his mind.
So, who’s ready for NBA basketball?
Archie Goodwin vs. The Phoenix Suns
Goodwin, who was cut by the Suns before the start of the season, has resurfaced in Brooklyn by way of a 10-day contract. He has played two games with the Nets, averaging 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 16 minutes per game while Lin has been out with his sprained ankle.
Good for Goodwin. He went down to the D-League to be available for a 10-day contract, and now he has another opportunity to show what he can do. Speaking of opportunities, here are Goodwin’s feelings about opportunities he’s had in the NBA. Via NetsDaily:
“Being in Phoenix for three years where I never really got an opportunity, then (I was in) New Orleans where I didn’t get an opportunity as well. Just looking at this opportunity here and being able to come in and work like I’ve been working, I’m just trying to take advantage.
“You could work so hard and nothing can happen for you if you’re in the wrong situation. You have to be fortunate enough to get in the right situation, and when you get there, take advantage of it. I feel like I’m in that situation now.”
And then there was this:
Archie Goodwin says he doesn't think about PHX because it's in the past. Says he really loves Brooklyn...#Nets @NetsDaily— Bryan Fonseca (@BryanFonsecaNY) March 22, 2017
Goodwin doesn’t seem to recall his time in Phoenix all that fondly, which is strange coming from someone who took off his ice skate and tried to stab somebody. No, wait, that was Happy Gilmore. In any case, Goodwin clearly harbors a bit of a grudge against the Suns for not handing him the reins to the team (except for, you know, his career-high 19.5 minutes per game last season). It should be interesting to see if Goodwin will release all his pent up frustration against Phoenix in today’s game…or if Kenny Atkinson plays him with Lin returning.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
Marquese Chriss has committed 229 fouls this season, ranking 8th in Suns history for a rookie. If he averages 5.5 fouls over the final 11 games of the season, Chriss will rank 1st in team history for a rookie, passing current team record holder Mike Bantom (289 fouls in 1973-74).
You cling to hope where you can.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.