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Preview: Suns host playoff-bound Warriors in home finale

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The final installment of Phoenix Suns basketball at Talking Stick Resort Arena this season takes place tonight against the defending champion Warriors.

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

What: Phoenix Suns host Golden State Warriors

When: 6 pm AZ time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable starters:

Suns - Tyler Ulis, Shaquille Harrison, Danuel House Jr., Dragan Bender, Alex Len

Warriors - Quinn Cook, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia

Suns

With the possibility of seven Suns sitting out tonight’s home finale, it sure looks like the tanks are locked and loaded by management to finish with the best odds at No. 1. After playing on Friday and looking fine in the locker room afterwards, Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss were added to the injury report late yesterday.

Alongside those two, five other rotation pieces for the Suns are expected to be questionable and then ruled out pregame. And that’s not even counting Brandon Knight, who’s been out all year.

After sitting through this roller coaster of season filled with off the court drama and lack of desire on the court on a consistent basis, who’s ready for the encore where Bender and House Jr. will be leading Phoenix in shot attempts their final two contests? That’s what it sounds like, because it sure seems like McDonough is going to finish on top of this year’s tank race in spectacular fashion.

Amazingly, they still only have a one-loss lead on the Grizzlies with two games to go.

Today’s starting lineup is one where it should greatly benefit Bender to be more aggressive from the opening tip. If not, that’s worrisome.

We have started to witness flashes of a better rebounder over this final stretch from 2016’s No. 4 overall pick but also more drives to the rim as well.

On this current roster, nobody else outside of Bender and Chriss have more to prove this summer. And the closer we continue to get towards this summer, the more I believe they are going to choose one to continue to mold as a project.

As Bender went back into his shell from scoring after a strong week-long stetch in February, Chriss has turned my decision-making around there. It’s gotten to the point where I believe Chriss is the most likely to finally breakout in his third season, outside of more developmental progress from Jackson and Devin Booker.

Chriss is so gifted athletically that he could immediately turn into a mismatch against most bigs just due to that strength + speed package he owns. Over the last few weeks, Chriss has played way more at center allowing him way more space to operate inside the post against others.

In Chriss’ last 10 games, he is averaging 12.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals + blocks. That looks way more like the Chriss who made Second Team All-Rookie last season.

Coach Jay Triano had a simple explanation for Chriss’ turnaround after Friday’s game: “He’s in shape.”

Add more talent around a prospect like Chriss, especially a dominant post player like Deandre Ayton in this year’s draft, and he could blossom perfectly into that 4th or 5th scoring option for the Suns. A similar stat line to the one mentioned above might honestly turn into his season-long one in 2018-2019.

Even though he is unlikely to play today, Chriss has turned my argument against him back on its head over the last month. He has been very impressive, as far as obvious developments we’re seeing in progress.

In a game where not many Suns will likely even be dressed, it might be best to look ahead towards next year on Fan Appreciation Day.

Warriors

Even though they lost out on earning the top seed out West, Golden State still has a chance at regaining some much-needed playoff momentum. Especially after losing last night at home versus New Orleans, the Warriors might come out with some extra motivation to end this one quickly.

This time around, the Suns will get most of the Warriors’ armada, sans Stephen Curry who’s still nursing his ankle injury.

That also spells trouble for a massively undermanned roster against these Warriors. Not only should Durant have his way matched up against Bender and House Jr., but Thompson is matched up with Harrison while Green will be on Bender/Len.

Good luck to this iteration of the Phoenix Suns today, because I have a bad feeling this might turn into how it was in October. It could easily get ugly and way out of hand after the first 6 minutes.

After falling down 27-12 against the Pelicans on Friday, something similar against Golden State seems almost a certainty to happen.

Outside of Andre Iguodala sitting out today’s game for rest reasons, the Warriors should be near full strength against a team in the exact opposite position.

This spells trouble for Phoenix, and likely their 17th instance of losing by 20+ points this season.

Prediction

This was the hardest part for me, because I imagine this will turn into another blowout loss for the Suns.

Honestly, do we expect a team with over 50% of today’s rotation from the G-League keeping it close at all with Golden State? I don’t, and that leads me to the easy choice of picking one more big loss to go down.

Ironically, how this season started for the Suns is likely how it will end with another non-competitive defeat against a way better opponent.

Warriors 125, Suns 97