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Game Preview: Shorthanded Suns host Warriors on second night of back-to-back

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A national audience on TNT gets to see what the Suns are made of.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Golden State Warriors (10-8) at Phoenix Suns (8-7)

When: 8 p.m. MST

Where: Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: FSAZ, TNT

Listen: 98.7 FM

Spread: Suns favored by 2.5, Suns ML is -125


The Suns are 3-6 in their past nine games, including their past three, and supremely shorthanded. There are a ton of reasons to lose this game. But doing so would put them even further behind in the Western Conference playoff race and increase the volume on questions facing this team.

Will we see Deandre Ayton bounce back, or will it be another flop? Will the Suns remain over .500 or become the next team sacrificed to nonsense from the Inside the NBA guys? Tune in to find out!

Injury report

Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker (left hamstring strain), Cameron Payne (right ankle sprain), Damian Jones and Dario Saric (health and safety protocol) are all OUT.

Golden State Warriors: Alen Smailagic, Marquese Chriss and Klay Thompson are OUT with long-term injuries.

Projected starting lineups

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

Warriors: Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr., Draymond Green, Kevon Looney


Phoenix Suns

8-8; No. 9 in the Western Conference

111.6 ORtg (11th) - 109.5 DRtg (9th) = plus-2.1 netRtg (10th)

The push and pull between coaching decisions and player intake is what I’m looking at heading into this game. Monty Williams didn’t mince his words when he told reporters postgame last night that “at some point you just have to finish out games and understand that to be a great team you have to be consistent.” That line frustrated fans who put more blame for the loss on Williams, but when both Chris Paul and Jae Crowder came to the podium, they each took responsibility onto the players for the loss.

From my perspective, the reason the Suns lost was because they didn’t try hard enough to win. Even without Booker and all the others, they are more talented than Oklahoma City, whose third best player most nights is either Hamidou Diallo or Luguentz Dort. A little more effort to prevent penetration defensively, a little more willpower to push the pace, a little more focus to hit key shots, and this game goes Phoenix’s way. The same players who built a nearly 20-point lead are the ones who lost the game.

If it was Monty’s fault they lost, was the huge lead all because of how great of a coach he is, too?

Golden State doesn’t allow you as much wiggle room as the Thunder. Without a great matchup for Curry, the Suns will have to find a way to score more consistently and protect the rim. A lot of that falls on Ayton, who is better than any center on the Warriors’ roster. With Booker out, the former No. 1 pick needs to play like one.

Want to stop the bleeding, big fella? Go win this game.

Golden State Warriors

10-8; No. 6 in the Western Conference

108.6 ORtg (20th) - 110.8 DRtg (14th) = minus-2.2 netRtg (18th)

More than anything, what’s on my mind regarding the Warriors heading into this game is how they have a better record than the Suns. Despite all the losing lately, you’ll notice the Suns are still close to a top-10 team on both ends. Yet Golden State, which is in the bottom half of the league in net rating, is over .500.

From what I’ve seen, that’s mostly because the Warriors’ stars play like stars, and their system is working. Curry is a late-game atomic bomb who is unto himself a luck-buster for opponents. One Curry flurry can decide a game. Like the Suns, the Warriors don’t get to the rim a ton and shoot a lot of threes. But they have just enough interior scoring between Oubre, Wiggins and James Wiseman to balance things out. On most nights this season, the Suns haven’t had that.

Aside from the offensive balance, Golden State has also stayed relatively healthy lately and avoided absences due to COVID-19. That’s just the luck of the draw, but it doesn’t change the fact that the home team tonight is at a severe talent disadvantage.

Prediction

I want to believe Ayton and others will respond, but this roster just doesn’t work as well without Booker, Payne and Saric in the mix.

Warriors 105, Suns 100