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Preview: Suns try for their first five-game win streak since 2014 against Wizards

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They can do it, but will they?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns @ Washington Wizards

When: 5:00 p.m. AZ

Where: Capital One Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Tonight the Suns look to add another win to their four-game win streak at the expense of the Washington Wizards. The last time the Suns won five games in a row was December of 2014, and one of the teams Phoenix beat during that streak was Washington. That game was also at the Capital One Arena (known as the Verizon Center back then), which Phoenix won 104-92. T.J. Warren is the only member of that team that is still with the Suns.

Unlike that meeting back in 2014, both teams now have losing records and have struggled early in the season. For the Suns, their fortunes have made a turn for the better recently with a four game win streak. The Wizards have not been as fortunate though, even after acquiring veteran small forward Trevor Ariza from the Suns for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers (waived by the Suns) over the past weekend.

Offensively, Phoenix is still near the bottom of the NBA for the season (28th) and Washington is a middle-of-the-pack 18th. Over the last four games (very small sample size for certain) though, the Suns’ OffRtg has jumped from 102.5 to 111.0. Having Devin Booker and T.J. Warren both healthy and back on the court has definitely put the punch back into their offense.

Defensively, the Suns have improved to 24th while the Wizards are 28th. Those are full season rankings though and if you start breaking down each team’s defensive performance during the last few weeks one thing is evident. The Suns’ defense has improved a great deal while the Wizards’ defense has not.

Net ratings for the season have both Phoenix (27th; minus-8.8) and Wizards (25th; minus-4.6) very close to the bottom of the NBA barrel but the Suns’ net rating has been on the rise — mostly due to their improved defense — whereas the Wizards have remained fairly steady in net rating.

The Wizards (12-20)

Probable Starting Lineup: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, Thomas Bryant

Injury report: Otto Porter Jr (knee) and Dwight Howard (back) are out.

Yes, ex-Sun Trevor Ariza is already in Washington’s starting lineup. Don’t expect a “revenge game” from him tonight though as he wasn’t unhappy to become an ex-Sun. The two Wizards players that can do the most damage are still Bradley Beal (23.5 ppg/4.5 assists/4.7 rebounds) and John Wall (21.2 ppg/8.9 assists/1.6 steals). Both of these two can still light up the scoreboard on any given night and combined for 65 points in their last win vs the Lakers just six days ago.

And if you’re wondering about the other ex-Sun on the Wizards’ roster (Markieff Morris), well he’s now coming off the bench and struggling.

According to Zach Lowe’s recent “Ten things I like and don’t like” article on ESPN:

Morris has reverted to his worst form as the Wiz have lost six of seven. In Phoenix, Morris had the vague outlines of a jack-of-all-trades -- a power forward who could post up, shoot 3s, make plays for others, and switch across all five positions.

Morris hasn’t made big strides in any of those areas.

When Washington asks Morris to blitz pick-and-rolls, he too often lurches at half-speed.

Teams are plundering the Wiz when Morris shows on the pick-and-roll, per Second Spectrum.

Playing next to two star guards quashed Morris’s nascent passing. His regression everywhere else is more disappointing.

Washington is something of a mess at the moment but the Suns shouldn’t let their own four-game win streak go to their heads and not take this team seriously.

Team Leaders

Points: Bradley Beal (23.5)

Rebounds: Dwight Howqard (6.1)

Assists: John Wall (8.9)

The Suns (8-24)

Probable Starting Lineup: De’Anthony Melton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren Jr, Deandre Ayton

Injury report: None.

You know this team as well as I do and we all know that it’s Devin Booker (24.5 ppg/6.6 assists), T.J. Warren Jr (18.5 ppg) and Deandre Ayton (16.0 ppg/10.4 rebounds) that fuel it’s offense. Defense is really what has been winning games for them lately and it’s been a true team effort there. If the defensive effort is not there tonight, the Suns’ offense might not be enough to carry them to another win.

Phoenix had a great rebounding game versus the Celtics the other night, and hopefully that will carry over into this game as well. The Suns are ranked 27th in rebounding for the season but the Wizards have actually been worse (29th). Over the last four games for both teams, Phoenix has ranked 5th (47.8 rpg), while Washington is at 30th (36.3 rpg).

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (24.5)

Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (10.4)

Assists: Devin Booker (6.6)

Summary

Both teams should be well rested tonight as both have had two days off since their last games. The Wizards are coming off two straight losses while the Suns are on a long overdue four game win streak.

Washington is still only three games out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, so they still have that for motivation. Phoenix is already in the position of just playing for pride.

This game could go either way, but I’m predicting that the Suns win, 112-108, to keep their win streak alive.