When: Monday, 7:00 PM AZ time (Mountain)
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Don’t look now, but iconic head coach Gregg Popovich has gotten the San Antonio Spurs onto a four-game winning streak that includes victories over the Boston Celtics (Friday’s opponent), Washington Wizards (one of best in East this year), Portland Trailblazers and the only other best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.
The Suns, meanwhile, are trying to recover mentally and physically from the toll of that 18-game win streak that included 19 games in only 34 days and four back-to-backs in the last two weeks alone. Along the way, they’ve lost a starter (Devin Booker) and a pair of regular rotation players (Frank Kaminksy, Abdel Nader) to nagging injuries and are now down to only eight proven players.
Now the Suns take on the scorching Spurs after only their second two-day break from games since the streak began, ready to “start another one” as Chris Paul puts it.
Probable Starting Lineups
The Suns have already ruled Booker as OUT as he recovers from the pulled hammy, a recurring issue for him over the past two seasons that the Suns would like to see completely cleared up before he plays again. Also OUT are Frank, Doolie and of course Dario Saric. Chandler Hutchison has been assigned to the G-League.
Since you last saw the Spurs two weeks ago, they’ve gotten Doug McDermott back from injury. Bates-Diop (ankle) and Devin Vassell (quad) both missed the Warriors game with day-to-day injuries.
When you last saw the Spurs, they were on a long losing streak and eventually reached seven games.
Since then, the Spurs have won 4 straight games, including the Warriors on Saturday night who had just beaten the Suns on Friday. By the transitive property, the Spurs are now better than the Suns, right?
In that four-game stretch the Spurs have played the league’s 2nd best defense, giving up just 97.7 points per 100 possession and their starting lineup (above) has been shellacking opponents with a +13 net rating.
The Spurs back court is the backbone of their team all season. Dejounte Murray, a one-time All-Defense honoree, quietly averages nearly a triple-double with 19.1 points, 8.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game this season. Combo guard Derrick White has exploded to about 20/5/5 next to him during the win streak (compared to season averages of 12.7/5.0/3.5).
From our friends at PoundingtheRock.com
The way San Antonio has won games as of late goes against a lot of the principles of modern basketball. They shun the three-ball, embrace the midrange jumper, and rarely get to the free-throw line but make up for it by taking care of the rock, forcing turnovers, and committing the fewest fouls in the league. This volatile playstyle depends on the Spurs executing their game plan to near perfection on a nightly basis. When players knock down shots at an above-average clip, the Silver and Black are practically unbeatable. But when the team underachieves, it almost always results in a blowout. Thankfully, Gregg Popovich has his club firing on all cylinders, and they could come close to approaching .500 with how their schedule looks over their next ten games.
Check out their full Game Preview here.
How do the Suns execute their offense consistently without leading scorer Devin Booker? Sure they still have All-NBA Chris Paul, and gravity-monster Deandre Ayton for the pick and roll, but the Suns will need excellent performances from the other perimeter scorers on the team.
The Suns 9th-best offense (2nd-best during streak) probably won’t look as good while Booker is out, especially against a Spurs defense that’s been very good all year and lock-down during their last four games. But we can’t have Cameron Payne missing 14 of 17 shots. or Landry Shamet and Mikal Bridges scoring less than 10 points each. Elfrid Payton, the new 9th-man, has to be better than a -12 in only 7 minutes of play and JaVale McGee needs that mojo back after laying a dud in Golden State on Friday.
Mikal Bridges suffered a dislocated right pinkie finger on Friday in the first half against Golden State and only put up one shot the rest of the game. The Suns have to hope that he gets back to a comfort level shooting the ball because they’re going to need him as the third scoring option and their secondary shot creator.
Ayton led the Suns with 23 points (7/16 shooting, 9/11 free throws) and was very active on both ends against the Warriors but so many other players stunk it up around him, shooting only 37%. They’re gonna have to do better than that to win this game against the Spurs.
What’s the worst that could happen
Just last spring, the Spurs (26-28 coming in) blasted the 40-15 Suns, 111-85.
Shot making was the story of the game, of course. San Antonio made 51% of their shots (42% on threes) while the Suns made only 40% (22% on threes). Most of the Spurs and Suns are all back.
Don’t take this Spurs team lightly. The Suns barely won two weeks ago, 115-111, needing clutch finishing by both Chris Paul and Devin Booker to close them out after they made a furious rally fueled by getting steals on defense and great shot making.
Just looking at stats, the Suns are better than the Spurs across the board. However, the Spurs are the team on the win streak now, and the Suns have lost their leading scorer.
Still, the Suns are at home on two days rest, and they don’t get into the habit of losing (best record in NBA since July 2020).
I’ll predict a Suns win, 115-100. But I won’t put it past Pop to lead his team to a stunning victory. Because he’s Pop.