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Game Preview: Suns (33-9) visit Spurs (16-27) on MLK Day

Deandre Ayton’s ankle injury proved that the hits keep coming, but the Suns cannot stop winning basketball games

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (33-9) vs. San Antonio Spurs (16-27)

When: 6:30 PM AZ Time

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Watch: Bally’s Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

Odds: DK SportsBook has Suns -4.5 as of Monday morning


As they prepare to play on the second night of a back-to-back, the Suns come into an MLK Day matchup with the San Antonio Spurs featuring the best record in the Association.

Yesterday’s demolition of the Pistons ensured that no Phoenix starter played heavy minutes, but there was bad news as the team departed the Motor City. Star center Deandre Ayton rolled his ankle in the first quarter of that game and never returned. He is out for tonight.

While Suns’ faithful are hopeful that the extent of DA’s injury is minor, Phoenix’s depth should allow them to continue thriving in his absence. The mix of JaVale McGee, Jalen Smith, and Bismack Biyombo has proven capable when Deandre has missed games, and Monty will lean on them heavily tonight. As always, having the all-star guard combo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul makes any personnel losses a bit easier to swallow.

The Spurs are coming off of Saturday’s victory over the shorthanded Clippers. The win was much needed for a San Antonio squad that had previously lost 10 out of 11 contests. Despite the team’s recent struggles, it is worth noting that the Suns have won both matchups this season by just eight combined points.

Derrick White’s emergence from Health and Safety Protocols should bolster the Spurs’ rotation, and tonight’s game could also feature the return of Jakob Poeltl from a lingering back issue.

Likely Starting Lineups

Suns

  • Chris Paul
  • Devin Booker
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Jae Crowder
  • JaVale McGee

Spurs

  • Dejounte Murray
  • Derrick White
  • Doug McDermott
  • Keldon Johnson
  • Jakob Poeltl OR Jock Landale

Injury Report

Suns

Cam Johnson is day-to-day and QUESTIONABLE tonight with an ankle injury

Deandre Ayton is OUT after an ankle injury suffered yesterday against Detroit.

Abdel Nader is OUT with a knee injury.

Dario Šarić is OUT while rehabbing his knee.

Frank Kaminsky is OUT with a stress reaction in his right knee.

Spurs

Jakob Poeltl is day-to-day, and QUESTIONABLE tonight with a back injury.

Tre Jones (missed last six games) is OUT and in Health and Safety Protocols.

Zach Collins OUT as he begins a G-League rehab assignment with the Austin Spurs.


What to Watch For

  • The Spurs’ Offense, Still Struggling: San Antonio sits at 20th in the league in offensive rating. Their struggles are explained in part by ranking 29th in 3PT-FG per game and 30th in FT per game. Furthermore, despite leading the League in two-point attempts per game, the Spurs sit just 22nd in 2PT%.
  • Dejounte Murray, Rising Star: San Antonio’s record may not be sterling, but Murray has continued to impress this season. He is averaging 19.1 PPG, 8.9 APG, 8.3 RPG, and 2.1 SPG, and the Spurs are +3.0/100 possessions with him on the court. He has also performed across his two showdowns with the Suns, posting 17.5 PPG, 12.5 APG, 8.0 RPG, and 2.5 SPG.
  • JaVale McGee, Starting Center: with Deandre Ayton out, JaVale figures to insert into the starting lineup. Thus far this season, the Suns are 8-2 with JaVale as a starter. He has been excellent in the role, including a 21-point, 15-rebound, two-block effort against the Celtics. In two games against the Spurs this year, McGee is averaging 13.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG in a reserve role.

Keys to a Suns Win

  1. Keeping the Status Quo for San Antonio’s Shot Profile: If Mikal, Jae, and Book can keep Murray, White, and Johnson at bay, it should provide the Suns with a huge advantage. Given that the rest of San Antonio’s roster generally struggles to create rim pressure, Phoenix could funnel a bunch of looks to the mid-range. With the Spurs’ mediocre effectiveness from that distance, that would be a win for the Suns.
  2. Cam Payne Buckets: Cam dropped 20 in the first meeting between these teams, and is coming off of another 20-point performance yesterday against the Pistons. The Suns will be looking to replace the roughly 30 nightly points that DA and Cam Johnson provide, and some added scoring punch from Payne would be enormous tonight. It does not all fall on his shoulders, but Cam has the ability to be a lightning rod off the bench.
  3. Devin Booker Being Devin Booker: It is understandable that Book wants to distance himself from the Kobe comparisons- there will never be another Bean. That being said, there are only a handful of players with the ability to independently kill a team’s spirit, and Devin is one of them. He has been heating up of late, with 65 points across his last two games. Tonight could be “one of those nights”, where a third-quarter Book eruption essentially seals off any chance of a Spurs’ comeback.

Prediction Time

Are the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back? Yes. Are they missing Deandre Ayton and Cam Johnson? Yes. Are things looking exceptionally gloomy for Phoenix? No. This team has earned the trust of the fan base. They may be shorthanded tonight, but they possess the star power, chemistry, and depth to pull out the win against an inferior Spurs team. San Antonio hangs tough, but the Suns take it in the end, 110-106.


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