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Viva la Mexico! Previewing Suns-Spurs in the capital city south of the border

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Suns take on Spurs with Devin Booker’s status in doubt.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs vs Dallas Mavericks EFE-USA TODAY Sports

What: San Antonio Spurs (9-15) vs. Phoenix Suns (11-13)

When: Saturday, 3:00 p.m. tipoff AZ time

Where: Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City

Watch: NBA TV and Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The good news is that the Suns face a team currently down in the dumps and not quite sure how to pull themselves out, down in Mexico City, where Devin Booker has never scored less than 39 points in a game.

The bad news is that it’s the Spurs, led by Pop, and the Suns might have to play without Booker due to this “forearm contusion” thing. Booker is officially listed as “questionable” for the game today.

Oy vey.

Probable starting lineups

Aron Baynes will likely keep coming off the bench for the Suns going forward, in anticipation of Ayton’s eventual return to the starting lineup. They want Baynes getting used to coming off the bench and develop chemistry with those lineups.

But then again, Baynes used to play for Pop’s Spurs so maybe Monty throws him out there with the starters for a game. And, we need Baynes to get back in rhythm. He hasn’t been as impactful this week as he was before the injuries.

Booker’s arm

Y’all have seen the pictures. He started with a small wrap on Monday around the lower forearm. That grew to the whole forearm on Wednesday. Then Friday it grew to cover from the elbow to part of the hand all the way to the knuckles at the bad of the fingers, and had an electrical stimulation type of get-up involved. I assume they’ve done an x-ray and there’s nothing broken. All while Booker is saying it’s fine and he’s just day to day.

Welp. The Suns just don’t have the best injury luck, do they? They have had ONE GAME with everyone in the lineup and that was opening night. Ayton’s been out 23 games. Aron Baynes missed 9. Ricky Rubio missed 5. If Booker misses time that will be all four of the Suns best four players being out at least a bit.

Booker’s replacement

Who would start in Booker’s place? Head coach Monty Williams has been very traditional with his starting lineups in terms of honoring age-old positions. When Rubio missed time, it was Jevon Carter or Tyler Johnson with the starters. When Ayton went out, it has been Baynes and Frank Kaminsky with the starters.

Based on that history, you have to expect that Tyler Johnson gets dusted off for the starting nod after only playing less than four total minutes the last six games. Because he’s a shooting guard.

But I would rather see Mikal Bridges get that nod. Or even Cameron Johnson if Monty wants that long-range shooting off the bat.

The Spurs start Bryn Forbes at shooting guard, surrounded by Derrick White and wings Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan. Forbes is a small-ish shooter (6’2”), so I could totally see Monty going with Tyler off the jump and more likely to bring Mikal in for Saric or Frank after a few minutes.

Who I want to see in Booker’s place: Mikal Bridges for 48 minutes of defense against anyone but LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poetl.

Who we probably WILL see in Booker’s place: Tyler Johnson.

Dario or Frank?

Apparently, only one of Dario Saric or Frank Kaminsky is allowed to have a good game each night. When Frank is hot, Dario is not. And vice versa. I could spend an hour putting a whole chart together to prove it, but you’ll just have to trust me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if both Dario AND Frank were impactful in the same game for once?

With Aron Baynes minutes still being capped — he played 15 on Monday, 18 on Wednesday — it’s really quite needed for the only other rotational big men to play well. Especially if Baynes return means Diallo is out of the rotation.

Small fours

Since Baynes return, Cheick Diallo is gathering dust on the bench. Diallo played only four garbage minutes in Monday’s win over Minnesota then did not play against Memphis.

Before the game, Monty said he likes what he sees from Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson using some of the big man minutes at the power forward spot when two or all three of them inhabit the same five-man lineup. So you can expect to see that again tonight, rather than Diallo, unless point margin is 20+ in one direction or the other.

Against San Antonio, with their usage of Gay and DeRozan on the front line with a single big, Monty will be even more included to go small at the four for long stretches.

Backup point

In yesterday’s poll, none of the backup options got even half the vote as the backup point guard. Elie Okobo got the most at 46%, with Ty Jerome second at 24%. But I just don’t see Elie being who Monty turns to.

I’d expect, especially if Booker doesn’t play and Tyler Johnson gets some of those minutes, that Ty Jerome will remain the backup with hopes he will catch up to the NBA game soon.

Hold onto your hats, Suns fans. Could be a bumpy ride the rest of this season if these guys still flounder.

Frankly, I’d like to see Jevon Carter again. Especially against an offensively challenged San Antonio squad. Carter can check Bryn Forbes, the only guy really likely go off from deep in that lineup.

Stats

Prediction

I’ve got to call the Suns win, even if Booker doesn’t play. If the Suns lose this one through their own fault of not playing well, we’ve got bigger problems. It’s okay if the Spurs thoroughly outplay the Suns. But if the Suns lay an egg, that’s an issue.

Suns win, 110-100.