When: 6:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Suns have already faced the Spurs twice this season and lost both times. In the first game, the Suns held there own in the first half and went into halftime with a 55-51 lead but then collapsed in the 3rd quarter letting the Spurs out score them 34-13 leading to a 112-95 victory for San Antonio. A month later, the Suns flipped the script by falling behind 52-39 in the first half and then mounting a spirited comeback in the second half that fell just short as they lost that game 104-101.
It would be nice if the Suns could somehow put those two best halves from the previous games together tonight for this game but I doubt that will happen.
The Spurs have been very good this season despite playing short handed in every game so far. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker could make their first appearances vs the Suns tonight. Leonard was out for “rest” on Wednesday when the Spurs lost to the Sixers and Parker was also out for “injury management purposes”. Even if they play, the Spurs will still be a little under strength with Rudy Gay sidelined with bursitis and Danny Green probably out with a groin injury.
Luckily, the Suns will be coming into the game relatively injury free (except for Knight and Williams) and with their budding star Devin Booker healthy once again. Following an off night for both he and T.J. Warren against Denver (17 and 13 points respectively), both of them will need to get back on track to make this into a competitive game and have a chance at bringing home a W.
With all the injuries this season, the Spurs have leaned heavily on LaMarcus Aldridge so far and he has delivered. He is both their leading scorer (22.2 ppg) and rebounder (8.4 rpg). It’s rather amazing that the second leading scorer for the Spurs - Kawhi Leonard - is only averaging 15.1 ppg this season and that only two other Spurs (Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol) are averaging just over 10 points per game each and they are still winning. But they are getting very good production out of their bench which is averaging 40.0 ppg (6th in the NBA).
Gregg Popovich has masterfully filled in the Spurs roster around Aldridge to make up for whichever players have been absent on any given night. Pop is the real strength of this team and it seems that he can usually find a way to win whoever he has on the court. Even with multiple lineups this season the Spurs have played well and are ahead of the Suns in virtually every major statistical ranking except pace, points per game and rebounding. The Spurs have the second best defensive rating (101.7) which often allows them to control the pace and slow down the game to a speed more of their liking but they can and will up their pace whenever it suits their need.
The Spurs are the epitome of a “team” on both offense and defense. They aren’t that flashy but they play together like the parts of a well oiled machine... and they seem to have an endless supply of interchangable parts.
Likely Starting Lineup
- PG - Tony Parker
- SG - Bryn Forbes
- SF - Kawhi Leonard
- PF - LaMarcus Aldridge
- C - Pau Gasol
Points: LaMarcus Aldridge (22.2)
Rebounds: LaMarcus Aldridge (8.4)
Assists: Tony Parker (4.1)
Although both Booker and Warren had sub-par scoring nights in Denver, since Booker’s return from his groin injury the two have been averaging a combined 51.2 points per game which has helped power the Suns to a 3-2 record in that span. And it hasn’t hurt at all that Marquese Chriss has seemed to take a mini-leap forward himself upping his scoring to 13.0 ppg (7.2 for the season) and rebounds to 8.6 rpg (5.0 for the season) as well. With Tyson Chandler well rested after sitting out the Denver game, hopefully he and Chriss will be able to help the Suns win the rebounding battle tonight.
The biggest problem for the Suns is that they have the NBA’s second worst defensive rating (109.2). Lately they have been playing much better D and tonight they are going to need that to stay in the game with San Antonio. They are also going to need for their bench to continue to produce at a high level. The Suns’ bench ranks just behind the Spurs’ bench (7th vs 6th) averaging 39.7 ppg.
Likely Starting Lineup
- PG - Tyler Ulis
- SG - Devin Booker
- SF - T.J. Warren
- PF - Marquese Chriss
- C - Tyson Chandler
Points: Devin Booker (25.0)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.6)
Assists: Isaiah Canaan (4.9)
Suns: Brandon Knight - out (torn ACL), Alan Williams - out (torn meniscus), Jared Dudley - day-to-day (illness)
Warren out for Suns. Jackson to start— scott bordow (@sbordow) January 6, 2018
Spurs: Rudy Gay - out (retrocalcaneal bursitis), Danny Green - day-to-day (groin), Tony Parker - day-to-day (“injury management”)
Marquese Chriss vs LaMarcus Aldridge
As I mentioned earlier, Chriss has seemed to have had a mini-breakout in the last few games and if he can have a really good game against Aldridge then I would start believing that it’s more than just a fluke.
If the Spurs were at full strength, I’d say that the Suns had little to no chance of winning this game... but they aren’t. If Booker, Warren and Chriss have really good games tonight, the Suns have a chance to win but the real deciding factor could be how many of the Spurs best players Pop decides to sit out of this game.