When: 7:00 p.m. AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
After losing two games in a row at home, the Phoenix Suns look to bounce back as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Phoenix. After a tough loss to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, the Suns had another difficult night against the Memphis Grizzlies, as Ja Morant’s game winner with 0.5 seconds left spoiled Booker’s heroics.
As of this moment, Ayton, Crowder and coach Monty Williams remain sidelined because of COVID Protocols, as well as six Thunder players - including the latest additions Josh Giddey, Derrick Favors and head coach Mark Daigneault.
The Thunder come in after a tough loss to the Kings last night and will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, meaning the Suns will have both the home court and the rest advantage. This will be the perfect opportunity to get back to their winning ways against the 14th seed in the west.
However, they will have to take this game seriously, as the Thunder have been managing to string a number of wins - they won 5 of their last 10 - and did present a bit of a challenge on their last matchup with the Suns on Dec. 23rd.
Projected Starting Lineups:
- Chris Paul
- Devin Booker
- Mikal Bridges
- Cam Johnson
- JaVale McGee
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Luguentz Dort
- Aaron Wiggins
- Paul Watson
- Isaiah Roby
Jae Crowder (out — COVID), Elfrid Payton (out — COVID), Deandre Ayton (out - COVID), Ish Wainright (out — lower back), Dario Saric (out — ACL), Frank Kaminsky (out — knee), Abdel Nader (out — rest)
Josh Giddey (out — COVID), Derrick Favors (out — COVID), Darius Bazley (out — COVID), Tre Mann (out — COVID), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (out — COVID), Aleksej Pokusevski (out — COVID)
Devin Booker will look to keep up the scoring outbreak he’s been having - Christmas game aside. He’s had 30 points on two of the last three games, the first one against this same OKC team on Dec. 23rd, adding to seven rebounds and seven assists. And if the team needing him to get back in the win column wasn’t enough, he’s only 4 points away from reaching 10,000.
Cam Johnson had a good game against Memphis and will look to continue his double-digit scoring streak tonight, as he tries to prove he belongs in the starting line-up. On the other hand, McGee will have to bounce back from a unproductive and foul ridden night. He has to find a way to stay out of foul trouble, as the only back-up the suns have for him is Jalen Smith. Even considering his good game against the Grizzles (15pts, 9reb), the Suns would not like to need him to be that productive for 20+ minutes.
Mikal Bridges will have to step up his aggression, all the while dealing with SGA’s scoring output. Mikal was 5-5 in his last game scoring only 10 points, with zero three point attempts, and, with Ayton out, he should be looking to stay aggressive and perform a bigger role on the offensive end of the court. Devin will be on his ear about that, as he has said the same the last time Mikal shot 100% from the field. If you’re hot and your shooting well, you have to keep shooting.
Finally, it will be worth noticing how Kevin Young approaches the rotations tonight. Although he did not reinvent the wheel with who was on the floor for the Suns against the Grizzles, he did have a somewhat different substitution pattern, making a number of changes every few minutes.
The Thunder come back to Phoenix after a 117-111 loss to Sacrament last night despite a 33 point performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Having lost three straight games to the Suns, they will be trying to bounce back, despite dealing with their own Covid outbreak, including six players and their head coach.
Isaiah Roby and Paul Watson started for OKC last night, only the second career start for Roby and third for Paul. All the while players like Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams, who have been productive pieces, remained on the bench - Williams, however, played more minutes then either of the starters. Let’s see if Mike Wilks will repeat his starting five or look to make some changes.
It will also be curious to get a better chance to see Ty Jerome again, as he will most likely play a reasonable number of minutes in this current rotation - he played over 15 last night in Sacramento. OKC rookie Aaron Wiggins is also worth looking out for, as he was productive on this 25 minutes, scoring 14 points, on 62.5% shooting, with a +/- of 13
The Suns win this one with some ease: 120-103