What: Phoenix Suns (11-41) at San Antonio Spurs (29-22)
When: 6:30 p.m. AZ
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The struggle bus sputters along as the depleted Suns make a pit stop in San Antonio for their final matchup of the season against the Spurs.
Phoenix has played the entire season without a real NBA-caliber starting point guard or power forward, but now injuries to starting center DeAndre Ayton, starting combo forward T.J. Warren and starting point guard (by proxy) De’Anthony Melton have made this a skeleton crew.
This is good news for those of you who just can’t get enough Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo and Dragan Bender, but bad for those of you who like good basketball and want the Suns to have a puncher’s chance of winning a game.
It’s very likely Devin Booker will once again be the only player for the Suns who would start on most NBA teams. In fact, several of the Suns starters probably wouldn’t even crack the Spurs rotation.
The Spurs, however, aren’t exactly the indomitable force of recent years.
San Antonio’s current winning percentage of .569 would be their second lowest in 30 years. The only season worse than that was when David Robinson was injured and the Spurs pulled off a successful one year tank job to get Tim Duncan.
This season the Spurs still aren’t a lock to make the playoffs. They are just 2.5 games ahead of the ninth place Lakers, who will likely make a run after LeBron returns to their lineup.
In 52 seasons as a franchise the Spurs have only missed the playoffs five times.
Meanwhile, back on planet orange, the Suns are about to miss the playoffs for their ninth consecutive season.
Booker, who has missed stretches of games on three separate occasions this season (and missed all of preseason) with various ailments (hand, hamstring, back), is playing again, but has been tepid at best.
He has 24 turnovers against 21 assists in his past five games and has went away from the three point shot, attempting just one three in two of his last four games. Prior to these last four games Booker hadn’t attempted less than two threes in a game since March 12, 2017. He has also been noticeably frustrated, which has culminated in technical fouls and a very non-flattering scuffle against Gorgui Dieng.
The Suns are coming off a less than spectacular showing against the Los Angeles Lakers in which Ivica Zubac (I’m sure he’s on your fantasy team roster) went off for 24 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 116-102 victory. The Lakers were playing without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Tyson Chandler.
Lance Stephenson also came up big for the Lakers, scoring 10 points in less than two minutes during the fourth quarter after the Suns had whittled the lead down to six points. The deficit went from 90-84 to 101-88 and the Suns never challenged again.
The bad Josh Jackson showed up again, as he shot 4-for-15 from the field to go along with a game-high four turnovers. Jackson has been underwhelming the last three games after having perhaps his best game of the season with 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dragan Bender also cooled down against the Lakers, finishing with just five points and four rebounds after being pulled early so he didn’t embarrass himself any further against a bad assignment.
The loss against the Lakers was the Suns’ eighth straight. Their season-worst stretch was 10 straight losses from November 25th - December 11th. Phoenix has lost 17 of 20 since their four-game winning streak. It has been 17 days since the Suns won their last game at home against the Denver Nuggets, 102-93. Two to three weeks between wins is normal, right?
San Antonio will be playing without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (knee/ankle), but that doesn’t necessarily mean much since the Suns have faced several teams lately at less than full strength with less than roseate results.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who is in contention to be one of the last players in for the Western Conference All-Star squad, is averaging 20.9 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The Spurs trounced the Suns 111-86 in the last game between the two teams in San Antonio back on December 11th. Bryn Forbes torched the Suns for 24 points and 11 rebounds. Warren led the Suns with 23 points. Booker missed the game due to injury.
This game matches the best three point shooting team in the league (Spurs .409) against the worst (Suns .331). In fact, T.J. Warren (.428) is the only Sun who shoots as good of a percentage from three as the Spurs do as a team.
A loss tonight, coupled with a Cleveland Cavaliers (10-41) win against the Washington Wizards (21-28), would leave the Suns all alone with the worst record in the NBA.
And just so people can talk about him in the comments without being accused of going completely off topic...