When: Wednesday, 7:00 PM AZ
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
After the Phoenix Suns broke an 18-game losing streak to the Golden State Warriors on the road in Oakland, it can’t be that hard to break a four-game losing streak to the Utah Jazz in the friendly confines of home, right?
The Warriors are in a funk right now, losing six of their last 10 games, and their best two shooters missed more combined three-pointers (22) against the Suns than they have in a single game in their whole 8-year careers together.
The Jazz are in their own small funk, losing to the Pelicans and Grizzlies in the last week alone (plus the Thunder). But that’s just a small dip, because right before that they beat all of the Mavericks, Clippers, Nuggets and Bucks and won 18 of 24 overall.
Will the Suns take on Kelly Oubre Jr.’s Tsunami personality on Wednesday night? I’m sure Deandre Ayton hopes so, but this time taking a moment to let Deandre in on the secret too.
"I was there 24/7. So I was asking him what the hell got into you, you and Kelly. Ya'll didn't tell me something before the game. Ya'll here playing on edge and stuff." #Suns Deandre Ayton on Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr., who combined for 59 in Sunday's upset at #DubNation pic.twitter.com/vwzMNloAkV— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) March 12, 2019
And with Booker, even Donovan Mitchell had to recognize the great game he had.
Let’s try to break it down.
(since January 4th; 19-9 record)
The Jazz have the league’s 6th most wins since January 4, running out the 14th best offense, 2nd best offense and 5th best net rating of +4.8 points per 100 possessions (roughly, a full game).
Helping out their second-ranked defense is the league’s second-best rebound rate and second most blocks per game in that span, led by potential repeat Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert in the middle and, mostly, Derrick Favors next to him at power forward. The two of them are stifling at the rim.
On the other end, they get to the rim and draw fouls a LOT, ranking fourth in the league in free throw attempts over that span, but they are pedestrian on shooting from the field — 20th in field goal percentage on all shots and 19th in three-point percentage — which leads to them ranking only 14th on offense overall.
(since January 4th; 7-21 record)
In that same span the Jazz have gone 19-9, the Suns have posted just a measly 7-21 record.
But it’s not all bad. Over that same span (28 games), the Suns LEAD the league in steals per game (9.5), are tied for 5th in blocks (5.9) and are 6th in free throw attempts (25.5). All very comparable to the Jazz, surprising or not, in those areas and indicative of their increased activity and general aggressiveness.
But, yeah, it’s been bad.
The Suns have been 27th on offense and 29th on defense despite those cherry-picked stats of goodness in the prior paragraphs. How?
Well, on defense they are 28th in field goal % allowed, 28th in three-point percentage allowed, 30th in free throws allowed, 29th in rebounds allowed, 28th in steals allowed, and 29th in fouls allowed.
But how have they been LATELY?
(since February 25th; 5-2 record)
Over these last seven games, the Suns have ranked 9th on offense and 15th on defense even while playing the leaders in each conference among those seven. They are still getting to the line like always at a high rate (leading the league in this span at 28.9), but are now hitting from the field too — 12th in overall field goal percentage and 16th on three-point percentage.
Amazing what a few made-shots can do.
Team leaders over the last seven:
- Devin Booker is averaging 27.7 points, 6.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals
- Kelly Oubre Jr. is second on the team in scoring at 19 per game, plus 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals
- Deandre Ayton rounds out the top three scorers with 17.7 points, 9 rebounds and 1.6 assists
- New point guard Tyler Johnson is delivering with 11.1 points and 4.9 assists against less than one turnover
- Mikal Bridges is scoring 8.9 points on 57 percent shooting, plus 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals
Back to Wednesday
Next up, Phoenix needs to play Utah. Now, the question is whether the Suns can keep up their increased energy and edge while keeping their cool and finishing strong.
I’ll pick the Suns to win. Why not?