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Preview: Suns try to squeeze out a win in San Antonio

The Suns try not to get swept by playoff-challenging rival Spurs.

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (18-26) at San Antonio Spurs (20-23)

When: 6:30 PM AZ time

Where: San Antonio, Texas

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Suns have lost both previous games to the San Antonio Spurs this year by a grand total of four points. In each case, the young Suns had a small lead late in the final quarter before the Spurs did just enough to pull out the win.

The youngest team in the NBA is now 3-7 in games decided by a single possession (three points or less) this season. Let’s hope they either figure it out or stop playing everything so close.

On the other hand, I’d rather the Suns play every game close than to lose by a season-high 25 points to the Indiana Pacers. So there’s that angle too.

Either way, the Suns are better than their record which is a sign of progress over recent seasons so we should be thrilled with this state of affairs.

Probable Starting Lineups

Spurs Update

After a dismal start, the Spurs have surged into playoff position which is of course aided by their pair of 2-point wins over the Suns.

Their offense is pretty good (9th overall) which buoys a sad-sack 23rd ranked defense. The offense is lifted by the mid-range prowess of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, who help rank them 1st overall in the league in two-pointers made and attempted. They are also 5th in three-point percentage, though only 24th in attempts. They also rebound very well (7th) and commit few turnovers (2nd fewest), so they are basically a really good 2000-01 version of an NBA offense.

Their defense is struggling on most nights. They allow other teams a lot of threes, which puts them near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories.

The Spurs have surged lately, winning 13 of their last 22 games, on the backs of making a ton of shots (something Suns fans don’t recognize) and LMA simply deciding one day he wants to be a three-point shooter (averaging 4 per game).

The Spurs are generally unremarkable, except they are getting the most out of their talent which is a staple of Pop teams.

Suns Update

After giving up incredible three-point shooting nights to random players recently — Marcus Smart 10/11 on Saturday, Bryn Forbes 8/10 on Monday, Derrick White 4/5 on Monday — but going 1-1 anyway (almost 2-0), the Suns simply laid an egg on Wednesday night when the Pacers bullied them into a 25-point blowout.

Now the Suns are an incredible 9-16 at home but 9-10 on the road. So maybe this road trip will be better than we think, considering the Suns seem to prefer being on the road.

But the Suns will still be without Aron Baynes. Even though Baynes production has fallen off, he is still a lynchpin for the Suns defensively. When Baynes is out, the Suns are a dismal 3-8 this season, their only wins being Minnesota, Charlotte and New Orleans on the road. Baynes is listed as OUT for tonight’s game.

With all of Baynes, Cameron Johnson and Frank Kaminsky out, the Suns bench is woefully limited on production.

I will be curious to see whether Tyler Johnson starts playing again, though he’s only been shooting something like 11% from the field this month. At least he’s a veteran.

When Tyler doesn’t play, and considering the other three out with injury, the Suns are stuck with Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter and Ty Jerome as the guard backups to starters Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker. Yuck. They are collectively shooting about 35% from the field since the turn of the new year.

On one hand, the Suns are finally back to their best starting lineup for only the 4th time in 44 games.

On the other hand, in only one game (opening night vs. Sac) have the Suns had their starting lineup plus even 3 of their top 4 bench players at the same time this season (Cameron Johnson was the only one out).

Tonight, expect Monty Williams to severely limit the minutes of anyone outside the top six remaining available players: Rubio, Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Dario Saric, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. So much for that roster depth when three players are injured at once.

The Stats

Prediction

I do think the Suns will bounce back to win this game over the Spurs.

“I think when you get beat that bad, you put it aside. Learn from it, obviously, use it as fire and respond your next time out there.” said Devin Booker to Duane Rankin of the Republic yesterday.

Let’s hope they emit a fire as hot as the Phoenix.