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Preview: Suns close out year against NBA champ Warriors

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Say goodbye to 2018 with one more difficult game.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns

When: New Years Eve, Monday, 7:00 PM AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Two nights after hosting a back-to-back against two of the Western Conference’s top three teams this season, the Phoenix Suns want to ramp up the competition. Why not? Let’s host the defending NBA Champions instead!

Sure enough, the Suns face their most difficult possible competition to close out the most miserable calendar year in Phoenix Suns history.

Whether the Suns win or lose, they will have cobbled together the fewest wins in a calendar year (January 1 to December 31) in their history, going 16-65 with one game to go.

Let’s hope 2019 is less miserable. My New Year’s resolution is to better appreciate the wins, because even if they’re not better in 2019 I might as well stop overreacting to losses and minimizing wins.

The Warriors

As for the game tonight, the Suns have a chance to ring in the New Year with a great win under their belts, and if they’re ever going to beat the Warriors this is the time to do it.

The Warriors are “only” second in the West so far this year, and have lost more games than they’re supposed to lose with their loads of talent.

The Warriors’ defensive rating is only 15th this year after being elite in prior seasons. That’s mostly because Draymond Green has been largely hurt most of the year, playing in only 23 of their 37 games to date.

Their offense is still 1st overall, of course, because All-Stars. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all average 21+ points and are basically unstoppable.

Sorry, Suns fans. I wish I had better news.

Is there hope?

Warriors’ weaknesses

They don’t get a lot of steals, ranking just 26th in the league is generating turnovers by the opponent.

The Warriors also have a little trouble rebounding the ball, ranking just 21st in that category.

So, if the Suns can make Klay, Steph and KD stop making so many jumpers, maybe the Suns can pull out the game!

Suns’ improvements

Even with the losses over the weekend to Oklahoma City and Denver, the Suns are still doing pretty well since Devin Booker and T.J. Warren returned healthy, and especially since Kelly Oubre Jr. replaced Trevor Ariza.

12/15-present: With Booker and Warren back, Oubre for six games (8 games, 4-4 record)

  • Offensive rank: 7th (111.5 points per 100 possessions)
  • Defensive rank: 21st (111.8)

11/30-12/14: No Booker or Warren (mostly) (8 games, 1-7 record)

  • Offensive rank: 29th (96.6)
  • Defensive rank: 20th (110.6)

Opening night-11/28: Booker in and out (21 games, 4-17 record)

  • Offensive rank: 28th (103.1)
  • Defensive rank: 27th (112.5)

The Suns have had so many lineup and rotation changes this season in only 35 games. I know fans think Igor Kokoskov is stubborn and doesn’t change quickly, but the reality is that he does.

The first matchup against the Warriors, in opening week, had the following breakdown in minutes: Booker (38 minutes), Ariza (35), Ayton (31), Isaiah Canaan (26), Ryan Anderson (20), T.J. Warren (24), Josh Jackson (19), Mikal Bridges (15), Tyson Chandler (14).

Four of the nine are now off the team or completely out of the rotation. Anderson hasn’t even been active in recent weeks. Bridges and Warren are now starters. De’Anthony Melton is now getting the point guard minutes along with Jamal Crawford.

Prediction

Happy New Year!

Just be glad if the Suns are competitive and have a legitimate chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.