When: 4:00 p.m. AZ
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
I don’t think anyone expected the Suns recent winning streak to extend into eternity, but hopefully a painful defeat last night doesn’t effectively become two losses.
The Suns will face not only the Brooklyn Nets tonight (this afternoon), but also tired legs as they look to bounce back from a loss they managed to wrestle from the clutches of victory.
Let’s face it, the Suns had ample opportunities to win that game. They just couldn’t get it done for a number of reasons.
DeAndre Ayton, who fouled out in the second overtime, still seems to be getting a bit of the rookie treatment from referees and opposing centers. Thomas Bryant, yes that Thomas Bryant, managed to go 14-14 from the field and went for a career high 31 points. His previous high was 16. He also went 3-3 from the free throw line to complete the perfect shooting night. It was the most field goals in a game without a miss by any player in NBA history not named Wilt Chamberlain.
Despite shooting a respectable 25-33 from the free throw line for the game, the Suns had a couple of key misses. Ayton missed a free throw with four seconds left at the end of regulation and Booker missed one with seven seconds left at the end of the first overtime. Either could have potentially won the game.
Booker is also still forced, or chooses, to resort to hero ball at the end of close games. That works out sometimes, but the lack of team-oriented offensive sets is something that needs ameliorated as the young players on this team get more experience as professionals. At least games like last night, as opposed to all the early season pummelings, give them learning experiences.
While those growing pains can be seen as a silver lining, the exhaustion that several players on the Suns will be battling against is harder to put a positive spin on.
Booker (33 points, 14 assists) played 55 minutes and Warren (28 points, 8 rebounds) played 53 minutes in the triple overtime marathon. It was a career high for both players.
It seems fair to assume that neither will have fresh legs under them for their contest against the Nets.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (42 minutes) and Ayton (39) also logged career highs. That does not bode well for a team tipping off about 19 hours after the game yesterday ended.
Despite the loss, the Suns continued to play mostly good basketball. Winning on the road is tough and the Suns gave themselves several opportunities to do so. Bradley Beal (40 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists) just made enough big shots to keep the Wizards in the game until they eventually pulled it out.
At least ex-Sun Trevor Ariza went 5-18 from the field with five turnovers.
The Nets are coming off a recent winning streak of their own, having reeled off seven in a row before falling to the Indiana Pacers (114-106) at home on Friday. Unlike the Suns four game streak against middling to bad teams, though, the Nets had wins against the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
That recent stretch elevated the Nets from 8-18 to their current 15-19 record. Suddenly the Nets find themselves just a game and a half out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. They will surely see the Suns as a team they need to beat as they fight to stay in contention for a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the Suns, despite their recent four game winning streak, are still tied for the worst record in the NBA (8-25) and face the nearly impossible task of not finishing the season dead last in the Western Conference. At this point the Suns still appear to be a bad to below average team, but at least they have elevated above the point of being historically bad. Despite the loss against Washington they also continue to play entertaining basketball.
Brooklyn is led by strong backcourt play. D’Angelo Russell (17.5 points, 6.2 assists) and Spencer Dinwiddie (17.4 points, 5.1 assists) have stepped up after leading scorer Caris LeVert (18.4 points) dislocated his right foot and has missed extensive time.
On paper the Suns appear to be much more talented than the Nets, but games aren’t played on paper. Back on November 6th the Nets won an ugly game in Phoenix 104-82 in which the Suns shot just 34.6% from the field.
It will be interesting to see how coach Igor Kokoskov handles the rotation tonight as the Suns battle exhaustion. Josh Jackson may see more minutes after playing just 17 last night and shooting 1-8 from the field. Just two games into his time with the Suns, it appears Oubre Jr. might be passing Jackson on the depth chart. Richaun Holmes (24 minutes) will also probably have a chance to earn extended minutes if he plays well.
Those two, and the rest of the team, will likely need to bring a strong defensive effort to get the win since the jumpers might be coming up a little short.
Even if the Suns don’t win tonight, they will have a chance to end their five game road trip with a winning record against the Orlando Magic on the day after Christmas after two days of rest.