When: 1 p.m. AZ/PAC time ***EARLY START ALERT***
Where: Orlando Bubble
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM or ESPN 620
Suns: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Deandre Ayton
Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Holiday, T.J. Warren, Myles Turner
Wow. That’s all I can even conjure up to say about Devin Booker’s game-winning buzzer-beater against the Los Angeles Clippers. Soak it in. Enjoy it. It was an incredible moment that will be forever etched into Phoenix Suns history.
DEVIN BOOKER GAME-WINNER pic.twitter.com/4QAeIRNiA6— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 4, 2020
Monty Williams and Devin Booker have already said they know they cannot relax and still have a long road ahead. That starts with a red-hot Indiana Pacers team led by T.J. Warren who has been an early favorite for “Bubble MVP” thus far.
Booker put on a phenomenal 35 point, 8 assist performance, but it would be remiss not to give a shoutout to the other key contributors such as Ricky Rubio (who has been excellent), Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and the pleasant surprise of the bubble: Cameron Payne. Dario Saric has been steady. Deandre Ayton has been a mixed bag, but made some big plays down the stretch defensively.
Deandre Ayton has yet to put together a complete dominant performance on both ends this bubble, so if he can find a way to have breakout game against Myles Turner it would be very much welcome. There have been some impressive flashes, but his slows starts and lack of engagement early in games are a bit concerning.
The underrated key towards Phoenix’s early success has been the bench providing a spark or at the very least giving them neutral minutes to keep them in games. That has to continue against a deep Indiana roster.
The piping hot Pacers haven’t been fazed thus far through three games against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Orlando averaging a whopping 119.3 points per contest. This will not be an easy matchup and this by all means has the makings for a mental “trap” game in essence.
What I mean by that specifically is that the Suns will be riding a high, and face a team that doesn’t have the big name stars to get a young team motivated to play against which is something Phoenix has struggled with in the past. Indiana plays very smart, team-oriented basketball and if the Suns don’t show up locked in they could find themselves in a hole early.
In fact, last time these two teams met in January the Pacers manhandled them by a final score of 112-to-87, and Warren dropped 25 points in his return to Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Indiana’s first bubble game was on August 1st, and they’ve already played a back-to-back (which they’re coming off of now) so this will be their 4th game in 6 days which could play a factor in fatigue/minute restrictions so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo are each battling back from injuries, but look to be near full strength. Myles Turner has had a very nice bubble and is an underrated big man in general, so the Ayton/Turner matchup will be a fascinating one to track. Domantas Sabonis is out, so that helps in terms of matching up with Indiana’s small-ball lineup they’ve been deploying thus far.
Mikal Bridges vs. T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren is off to a torrid start so far and has rightfully garnered a ton of national attention for the dynamic scoring ability he’s displayed.
Insert Mikal Bridges.
If anyone can slow him down, it’s the lanky sophomore forward out of Villanova. Warren and Bridges were teammates a year ago obviously, so there will be some familiarity on both sides here. Warren will want nothing more than to prove his former team wrong for trading him, so expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder and take this game personally. If Bridges can slow him down and make him uncomfortable then that changes the entire dynamic of the game.
If he can do this to “The Klaw”, he can do it to anyone.
This game scares me. Truly.
But... the magic can’t run out just yet, let’s keep this thing rolling! This is a team on a mission. It won’t be easy, but I think they gut out another heart-wrenching win against a very good Indiana team.
Prediction: Suns 119, Pacers 116