When: Thursday, 7:00 PM AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM radio
The Suns are chugging right along, winning 21 of their last 23 games. They are relying on their defense (2nd in the league) and clutch play (12-1 this season in games within 5 points in the last 5 minutes), masking the shortcomings of an offense ranked only 23rd over the last 9 games.
The Wizards are struggling in all areas, losing 7 of their last 9 games after a hot start. They live inside the three-point line on both ends of the floor, but have given up way too many easy buckets lately.
Still, they have All-Star Bradley Beal who can carry a team’s offense all by himself on any given night while the Suns have already ruled out their own leading scorer, All-Star Devin Booker (hamstring strain), for the 7th straight game.
Probable Starters / Injuries
Out for Suns: Devin Booker (hamstring), Frank Kaminsky (stress reaction, knee), Abdel Nader (soreness, knee), Dario Saric (torn ACL, knee)
Out for Wizards: Thomas Bryant (torn ACL, knee), Rui Hachimura (not with team)
Phew, it’s good to have DA back, eh? As fun as it is to see JaVale McGee toss up 21 and 15, backed up by Jalen Smith’s 7 and 9, I’d rather just see the regular rotation of Deandre Ayton at 30-35 minutes and McGee taking what’s left.
Ayton played a career high 45 minutes (including 5 overtime minutes) against the Blazers and had the best offensive display of his career. He’s become a real threat on the pick and roll with quick passes to him above or at the free throw line. See friend-of-the-Suns Jackson Frank break down all the ways Ayton created points on the roll.
Deandre Ayton has taken a notable step forward in his versatility as a roller this year and last night's game was a great example of that leap.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 15, 2021
Look at all the different ways he created points on the roll: pic.twitter.com/8Vz49HkN54
Add that offensive bag to his already excellent rebounding, rim finishing, turnarounds in the post and stellar defense all over the court and you’ve got a guy who might just vault among the top 20 of the league very soon.
After a hot start at 13-7 to vault them into the upper echelon of a very good early-season Eastern Conference, the Wizards have stumbled and lost 7 of their last 9 games, including three straight on a Western Conference swing.
Their once-stiff top-5 defense has bent of late (29th in the league the last 9 games) though the same players have been available throughout that time.
Three of the top five players in minutes played for the Wizards this year are last year’s Lakers, who were traded for Russell Westbrook after losing to the Suns in the first round of the 2021 Playoffs (laughing meme).
Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope join All-Star Bradley Beal in the starting lineup, with Montrezl Harrell off the bench as sixth man. Kuzma missed a couple of these recent games due to health and safety protocols, but otherwise the top players have remained intact during the good days and bad days.
Stat to note
Watch the three-point line: The Wizards are last in the league in threes made per game (10.0) while allowing the fewest (10.1). They force you inside — which is where the Suns like to be anyway. I say to watch the three point line because you simply won’t see many taken.
With the Wizards swooning (losing 7 of 9) and the Suns plowing through opponents (winning 21 of 23), how can you predict anything but a Suns win?
How the game unfolds will be fun to watch, but whatever the method we can only predict a Suns win, probably by 10 points.