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Preview: Frisky Thunder face the Booker-less Phoenix Suns

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The Suns are fully capable of beating OKC even without Devin Booker.

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9) at Phoenix Suns (8-7)

When: 7 p.m. MST

Where: Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: FSAZ, NBA League Pass

Listen: 98.7 FM

Spread: Suns favored by 7.5, Suns ML is -300


Because much of the NBA regular season is consumed through the lens of what is “real” and not real, all eyes are on the Suns over the next few nights to see whether their strong start was built to last. Especially without Devin Booker, the Suns are determined to answer that call and show the league that they can continue to win.

Both sides have absences, but the Suns are clearly the better team and will look to take care of business.

Injury reports

Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker is OUT with a left hamstring strain, Dario Saric and Damian Jones remain OUT in the health and safety protocol

OKC Thunder: Al Horford (personal)

Projected starting lineups

Suns: Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Thunder: Theo Maledon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Isaiah Roby, Darius Bazley


Phoenix Suns

8-7; seventh in the Western Conference

112.6 ORtg (10th) - 110.0 DRtg (12th) = plus-2.6 netRtg (9th)

The most important order of business for the Suns is that Booker is still out. However, if Bridges can stay out of foul trouble, he is more than capable of stepping up offensively, and it will be a good opportunity to see if Abdel Nader can get more comfortable after he said this morning he is “still getting his feet wet.”

“We’re all basketball players,” Bridges said when asked how challenging it may be to win without Booker.

This group doesn’t want to let up just because of their star player’s hamstring.

The other thing to watch here is the presence of Monty Williams, who was away from the team the past two days tending to a personal matter but will return to coach Wednesday night’s game, according to Duane Rankin of azcentral.

Still, the Suns have some things to figure out on offense especially. They have yet to put together a full 48 minutes of elite offensive basketball, aside from maybe the Pelicans game the first week of the season. Most of the time, it has been one of Booker or Ayton going off, or the three-point shooting, or the bench, but never all of it at once.

They will need to click more consistently in order to win without Booker.

Oklahoma City Thunder

7-9; Tied for twelfth in the Western Conference

106.4 ORtg (26th) - 113.2 DRtg (24th) = minus-6.7 netRtg (27th)

As the numbers show, the Thunder have impressively outperformed their underlying stats, while the Suns have underperformed. That’s usually because of how each team plays in late games. The Suns will be hoping it never gets that close.

The recipe for Oklahoma City to win games is for Gilgeous-Alexander to play at an elite level and their defense to keep them competitive. SGA is the only 20-point scorer on this team and effectively the only consistently positive player. Others like Bazley, Dort and Hamidou Diallo have stepped up here and there, but they have not been nightly contributors.

The Suns’ offense is good enough that it should be able to beat OKC’s defense without Horford most of the time, and Bridges is a great matchup to guard SGA.

Prediction

There is no reason the Suns should lose this game. Not only are they better than OKC, but the Thunder are without Horford. Still, OKC did also just beat a healthy Portland team on the road two nights ago, illustrating how big of a wildcard they are.

Suns 115, Thunder 105