When: 7:00 p.m. AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
The Suns look to get back on track following their Christmas loss to the Warriors when they host Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. Suns recently joined Memphis as two of the many teams in the league dealing with Covid issues, so each squad will be missing a few players due to that.
You can read Dave King’s reporting on Phoenix’s Covid news here.
The Grizzlies also suffered a loss to the Warriors recently, with theirs coming just before Christmas when Steph Curry hung 46 points on them in a 9-point loss, which knocked them down to 0-2 since Morant’s return from a knee sprain that kept him out three weeks.
Memphis sits at 4th in the Western Conference standings, just four games ahead of the dreaded 7 spot that would force them into a play-in scenario, which they’ve been involved in every year since its conception.
While the Grizzlies are looking to gain some breathing room in that sense, the Suns are just looking to stay within striking distance of the Warriors for the 1 seed, as well as avoid their first set of consecutive losses since the first week of the season.
Projected Starting Lineups:
- Chris Paul
- Devin Booker
- Mikal Bridges
- Cam Johnson
- Deandre Ayton
- Ja Morant
- Desmond Bane
- John Konchar
- Jaren Jackson Jr.
- Steven Adams
Jae Crowder (out — Covid), Elfrid Payton (out — Covid), Ish Wainright (out — lower back), Dario Saric (out — ACL), Frank Kaminsky (out — knee), Abdel Nader (out — rest)
Dillon Brooks (out — Covid), De’Anthony Melton (out — Covid), Yves Pons (out — Covid), Ziaire Williams (out — Covid), Jarrett Culver (out — Covid), Santi Aldama (out — calf), Sam Merrill (out — ankle)
Kevin Cutler, Derrick Collins, John Butler
Devin Booker was in the Christmas spirit against the Warriors on Saturday, which is to say that he had a very cold evening shooting from the field. Just 13 points on 5-19 shooting in 40 minutes, so he’ll be looking to bounce back.
Conversely, Cam Johnson — likely starting in place of Crowder in Covid protocol — will be looking to stay hot as he’s been the most consistent bench scorer on the squad, putting up double figures in 11 straight, as well as 15 of the last 17 contests. He’ll also look to extend his league-leading streak of 2+ three-pointers made with 14 games, which is still tied with Curry.
Deandre Ayton has a tough matchup ahead of him against the burly Steven Adams, but his growing aggression and low post productivity should help in a matchup he usually struggles in. As far as wins and losses, the two are 1-1 against each other in the last two, but Adams won the first four matchups.
Memphis is having a similar season to Phoenix in that they’re improving thanks to internal development from their young pieces, and that’s headlined by Morant, who’s putting together an MVP-like statline for the season. He’s currently averaging career highs in points (23.6), rebounds (5.5), three-point percentage (34.8%), and steals (1.6) despite no increase in minutes or turnovers.
Desmond Bane is also seeing quite a leap in his second season, averaging 16.4 points on 46.4 / 41.3 / 92.9 shooting splits. His efficiency is especially astounding when considering a 16.1 —> 22.1 jump in usage as well as a very safe 1.4 turnovers per game in 29.2 minutes per game. Bane led the Grizzlies in scoring in their 25-point win at Sacramento last night with
With Dillon Brooks out of the lineup, Kyle Anderson could pick up some of the scoring load from the wing spot. He scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting in 26 minutes during the blowout over Sacramento. Konchar took Brooks’s place in the starting lineup and he had a solid outing as well, grabbing 14 rebounds (game-high by 5) and added 11 points in his 28 minutes.
Suns get back on track behind a 30-plus point outing from Booker and claim victory going away, 113-89. (Follow @iamdamonallred on Twitter for my live thoughts during the contest.)