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Preview: Suns travel to Kyrie-less Brooklyn for third game in four nights

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After a blowout loss in Milwaukee, the Suns will hope for some better injury news.

Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (20-29) at Brooklyn Nets (21-27)

When: 5:30 p.m. MST

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


The Suns’ inconsistent play over the past two months showed that their playoff fortunes were going to be decided by their opponents more than themselves. That’s a frustrating position to be in, but with a January slate that became harder when San Antonio and Memphis started playing well and continued problems winning at home, the Suns just couldn’t take control of the season.

As the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Pelicans gain ground in the race for the eighth seed, the Suns are trending toward the lottery right now. With Thursday’s trade deadline in clear view, Phoenix’s hand is being forced a bit. They’re not winning games and their roster is battered with injuries.

Not a great time to be on the road.

Phoenix Suns

No. 11 in the Western Conference

110.0 ORtg (19th) - 111.3 DRtg (18th) = minus-1.3 netRtg (17th)

Projected starters: Elie Okobo, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton

As I’m writing this, the Suns haven’t released their injury report for the game in Brooklyn. So I can’t say for sure whether holding out so many guys against the Bucks was just precautionary against a great team with the intention they would all return to play Brooklyn. Of course, we all hope for watchability’s sake that Ricky Rubio and Ty Jerome in particular can return to the court, but the guards weren’t really the problem on Sunday in Milwaukee.

Phoenix got gashed inside, with Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly securing a 30-20-10 game and Brook Lopez putting up a Duncan-esque stat line as he bullied Deandre Ayton.

After a dazzling game last Tuesday night in Dallas, Ayton put together two disappointing performances. Though his box score production was in line with his norms, his shot selection and defensive intensity again hurt the Suns. The idea of having eight offensive rebounds but only 10 made field goals, as Ayton did Sunday, doesn’t add up at all.

Despite Devin Booker being a near-lock for 30 points a night over the past several weeks, the Suns still don’t have a reliable second scorer (Frank Kaminsky is out, Ayton and Rubio aren’t consistent, and Kelly Oubre Jr. was 5-20 on Sunday). Unless that changes, they won’t be favored in nearly any road game.

Brooklyn Nets

No. 7 in the Eastern Conference

107.4 ORtg (22nd) - 109.2 DRtg (14th) = minus-1.8 netRtg

Projected starters: Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Garrett Temple, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen

How cruel it is for the Suns to face Brooklyn at this point in the year, as Phoenix’s playoff hopes dissipate. The Nets are precisely the type of Eastern Conference team that is maddening for fanbases west of the Mississippi, a thoroughly mediocre team that has basically locked in a playoff spot already.

However, Nets fans are by no means celebrating right now. The team just lost Kyrie Irving again, just a few games after he returned from a shoulder injury. The latest is a ligament sprain in his right knee, which will force him to miss at least a week.

Irving’s injury is not the only one affecting the Nets’ season. They lost De’Andre Jordan in early January, missed Caris LeVert for a few weeks in the fall, and of course do not have Kevin Durant, which removes a roster spot and limited their financial flexibility to build a deeper bench to steady the ship in his absence.

Dinwiddie has played like an All-Star in Irving’s absence, though, and the Suns will likely struggle to contain him. As with Derrick White, Dennis Schroder, Ja Morant and countless others this season, guards who can create dribble penetration give the Suns fits, meaning Dinwiddie’s skill set is precisely the Suns’ kryptonite.

Prediction

If this game was in Phoenix, I would give the Suns a better chance. After all, they mopped the floor with a fully healthy Brooklyn squad back in November. But with all the injuries Phoenix is facing and Dinwiddie presenting an obvious matchup problem, the benefit goes to the Nets here.

Nets 120, Suns 110