When: Thursday, November 14 at 7:00 PM AZ
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns continue their season-long six game home stand tonight against the Eastern Conference’s cinderella team from last year, the Atlanta Hawks.
The Suns, losers to the Lakers at home on Tuesday night, are 3-0 after a loss this year with an average winning margin of 14.7 points. Those wins have come against Denver (+8), Golden State (+11) and the Brooklyn Nets (+26).
The Hawks are fresh off a thrilling victory on the road over the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Suns by one point earlier this year, to pull back to 4-6 on the season after losing 6 of 7 games. Young star Trae Young dominated with 42 points and 11 assists, along with Jabari Parker (20/4) and former Suns center Alex Len (18/7).
The Suns are favored to win by a touchdown. The best thing you can do tonight is to come down to the arena to cheer on your Suns. The arena has been rocking on a nightly basis with fresh blood fans desperate to cheer for a winning team!
The Hawks are competitive again this year, but are battling injuries and suspension in a similar way to the Phoenix Suns. Just like the Suns lost starting center Deandre Ayton for 25 games for a banned substance, the Hawks lost starting forward John Collins for 25 games as well.
Atlanta is very young, with five of their top seven players age 22 or younger, but they will be missing Collins (22) and Kevin Huerter (21) from that group in this game. Huerter has an injured shoulder.
Also out for the Hawks are veteran bench players Vince Carter (old), Chandler Parsons (always hurt) and Evan Turner (achilles). Fortunately for Suns fans we won’t get to see Carter put up another 20 off the bench against his old team.
Hawks leaders in Collins absence are Trae Young (29 points, 9.8 assists) and reclamation project Jabari Parker (21.8 points, 8.2 rebounds). Rookie 4th overall pick De’Andre Hunter has averaged 10 points per game in Collins’ absence on only 36% shooting. Hunter, former teammate of Suns rookie Ty Jerome, was drafted for his defensive skills.
Former Suns center Alex Len would be listed as the Hawks 4th leading scorer at the moment, though he averages only 6.4 points per game (16.9 minutes per game) since Collins suspension began.
The Hawks’ other promising rookie is Cam Reddish, but Cam is struggling to find the net in his rookie season. He’s posting just 5.5 points per game on 25% shooting so far.
Not all is rosy in Sunsland.
A glance at the Phoenix Suns home-heavy early season record — only 4-3 at home so far this season versus 2-1 on the road — and you might question the quality of the team that will take the court tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.
A glance at the defensive efficiency rankings — where the Suns rank only 13th overall on the defense (out of 30), 20th in points allowed in the paint and 29th in opponent free throws allowed — might tell you the Suns are just aching to get beat due to lack of size and interior defense.
A glance at the Suns recent history — finishing last or second-to-last in the Western Conference for four straight years — and you’d be justified in those worries.
Yet those glances would be lying to you.
The Suns are this season’s revelation because they boast the league’s 3rd best offense (points per 100 possessions), 2nd best Effective Field Goal percentage (which give extra credit for 3-point shots) and league-best True Shooting percentage (which gives credit for threes AND free throws) while also staying competitive on defense at 13th overall.
The Suns have had only one loss by 10+ points on the season — to the Hot Hot Heat a week ago — and gone toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the East and West.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel is the latest coach to compliment this Suns team after eeking out a win on Tuesday: “That was a really good team that we beat tonight; that’s a really good win.” The Lakers are 8-2 and lead the West with the league’s widest margin of victory per game.
The Suns have played, according to the bball-ref algorithms, the league’s 5th toughest schedule so far. Of the Suns 10 opponents this year, only the Kings, Warriors and Grizzlies have losing records as of today.
There’s zero evidence so far this season that the Suns will lose this game. They are 3-0 against losing teams, and 3-0 in their first game after a loss.
Which spells doom right? Murphy’s Law and all that?
Suns by 15.