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Game Preview: Suns go for lucky 13 in the Alamo

Book and Co. kick off a four-game road trip looking to continue their historic run

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (13-3) vs. San Antonio Spurs (4-11)

When: 6:30 PM AZ Time

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Watch: Bally’s Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Phoenix Suns are on fire, with last night’s 126-97 drubbing of the short-handed Nuggets marking their 12th straight victory. After taking care of business the second time around versus the Blazers and Kings, the Nuggets were the only remaining team on the Suns’ revenge tour. Phoenix set the tone early last night with a 48-point first quarter explosion, and Cam Johnson’s career-high (22 points) and Ish Wainright’s first NBA field goal helped punctuate the evening. The Suns head into tonight’s contest a game-and-a-half back of the Warriors in the conference standings.

Hosting the Suns will be the Spurs, who find themselves in the midst of a four game slide. San Antonio boasts quality coaching and depth, and Dejounte Murray has been a revelation to start the season (18.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG). Unfortunately for Pop, his roster has a dearth of star power. The offseason trade of DeMar Derozan deprived the team of its sole 20 PPG scorer, and until one (or more) of the promising young core steps up wins will be hard to come by.

Likely Starting Lineups

Suns

  • Chris Paul
  • Devin Booker
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Jae Crowder
  • DeAndre Ayton

Spurs

  • Dejounte Murray
  • Derrick White
  • Doug McDermott
  • Keldon Johnson
  • Drew Eubanks OR Jakob Poeltl

Injury Report

Suns

Abdel Nader missed last night’s game with a knee injury, and his status for tonight’s game has yet to be announced.

Super Dario Šarić is still unavailable while rehabbing his knee.

Spurs

Zach Collins is expected to be back after Christmas as he continues to recover from foot surgery.

Jock Landale missed San Antonio’s last game while in Health and Safety protocols. His status for tonight is uncertain.

Additionally, last Thursday was Jakob Poeltl’s first game back after missing seven contests while in COVID protocols.


What to Watch For

  • Spurs’ Offensive Deficiencies: San Antonio boasts a balanced attack, with seven different players averaging double-digit scoring. They lead the league in fields goals per game, are second in assists, and fifth in turnovers. Why then, do they have the 24th most efficient offense in the league? San Antonio ranks dead last in both made free throws and made three-pointers per game.
  • Jakob Poeltl Minutes: the linchpin of the Spurs defense, Poeltl is still getting his legs under him after a stint in the NBA’s COVID protocols. With Poeltl out, Thad Young received extended run with the Spurs’ reserves. However, Young played just four minutes against the T-Wolves Thurdsay while Poeltl played 15.
  • Run-and-Gun: After spending last season outside the top 14 in pace, both the Suns and Spurs are among the NBA’s five fastest teams this year. For the Suns, the notoriously meticulous Chris Paul has sped up his game to accommodate younger teammates. For the Spurs, a faster pace allows players like Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker to best leverage their abilities. Look for tonight’s matchup to resemble a track meet.

Keys to a Suns Win

  1. Stellar Bench Play: while they may not have star power, the Spurs roster runs 10 deep with quality players. Thankfully, the Suns have quality depth of their own. If the Cams, Landry, and JaVale can outplay the San Antonio reserves, the winning streak should stretch to 13 games.
  2. Limiting Murray’s Slashing: although his perimeter shooting is a work in progress, Dejounte Murray can wreak havoc on a defense. He is an absolute terror in transition, and creates a ton of looks for himself with his ability to force turnovers and high-level defensive rebounding. If the Suns can protect the ball, get back on defense, and force Murray to play above the break, it would go a long way in limiting the damage he can inflict.
  3. Win the transition battle: Both teams are top-five in transition efficiency this season. Unlike the Spurs, however, the Suns have two elite creators that they can rely upon for half-court offense. If Phoenix can convert defense to offense while simultaneously stifling the Spurs’ transition chances, it could provide them with an insurmountable advantage.

Prediction Time

The Suns are on the second night of a back-to-back, and this could be a trap game. However, given the trajectories and recent form of the two squads, tonight should be number 13. There is a large talent gap between the teams, and the Suns are locked in. Suns win, 112-98