When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
Hey now! What so nearly became last year’s Western Conference Finals has now just become Game 4 of the new NBA season.
A Western Conference Finals matchup had been predicted for months around the Association, assuming the Warriors could vanquish the Grizzlies along the way. But in reality, it was the Suns who would come up short, losing in seven games to a Mavericks team they’d beaten like a drum in recent seasons. The Warriors went on to beat the Mavs easily and then survive the Celtics to take their 4th championship in 8 seasons.
Now we have a new season and a new hope. Since the start of the second half in game one against Dallas, the Suns are a very good team again. And so are the Warriors. Yesterday, NBA.com listed the Warriors and Suns as two of the top four teams in the league after a week of play.
While an early regular season game doesn’t mean a whole lot in the scheme of things because it’s only one of 82, you have to know that this game means more to at least the Suns than most.
Allow me to preview the teams, letting you know where they stand.
- Wins over crappy Lakers and Kings, who are a combined 0-6 to start the season
- Loss to Finals-hopeful Denver Nuggets, who were coming off an embarrassing opening night loss to the tanking Utah Jazz
The Warriors have not faced the highest level of competition. Even Denver, to whom they lost, is still trying to get Jamal Murray back into good NBA form while trying to incorporate a number of new rotation players after offseason movement.
Overall, the Warriors are meh so far:
- 11th on offense (112.6), 15th on defense (110.4), 12th in net rating (+2.2), 20th in turnovers, 5th in True Shooting.
Yet, it’s the Warriors so don’t let the lackluster early games fool you.
NBA.com’s comments on the early Warriors, who they rank 3rd overall:
So, about that young bench… The Warriors’ starting lineup has been dominant, registering no worse than a plus-9 in each of their three games. And in 87 total minutes with at least three starters on the floor, the champs have outscored their opponents by 22.3 points per 100 possessions. But in 57 minutes with two or fewer starters on the floor, they’ve been outscored by 29.9 per 100.
The champs have been playing super fast; Their 110.3 possessions per 48 minutes is 9.2 more than the league average (101.1) through Week 1. Their two competitive opponents this week – Phoenix and Miami – rank 27th and 22nd in pace thus far.
Yep the Warriors play super fast — despite being only 11th in offensive efficiency, they’ve scored 123+ in all three games (all at home), opening a season like that for the first time since 1962-63.
Draymond Green has regularly said he hates playing bad teams, so I give him a puncher’s chance to get up for a good game against the Suns. Last Christmas, Draymond played his best game of the young season against the top-seeded Suns and I expect we’ll get his best in Phoenix on Tuesday night.
Stephen Curry (33.3 points per game on 47/44/100 splits) and Andrew Wiggins (22.3 ppg on 52/38/70) are on fire to start the season, and Jordan Poole is rounding into form (24 points and 4 assists against the Kings). Still, he and Klay Thompson are barely shooting 40/33/80 splits between them.
They are spreading minutes around liberally, giving at least 13 minutes per game to 10 different players and no one topping Steph’s 33.3.
- Wins over otherwise undefeated Mavericks and Clippers, who are a combined 3-0 when not playing the Suns
- Loss to the surprising Portland Trailblazers, who are now 3-0 on the young season.
The Clippers are a Finals favorite, the Mavericks followed up the Suns loss with a 41-point shellacking of the Grizzlies, and the Blazers have notched wins against the Kings and Lakers too.
Overall, the Suns have been a leeettle bit better than the Warriors:
- 17th on offense (110.0), 4th on defense (104.0), 9th in net rating (+6.0), 12th in turnovers, 17th in True Shooting.
Good results, considering Chris Paul is shooting like Russell Westbrook with 32/9/100 splits. Yes, that’s 9% on threes. Fortunately for the Suns, he knows he’s shooting bad so he’s averaging more assists (10.7) than shot attempts (9.3).
The Suns best players so far have been the young core of Devin Booker (33 points per game on 53/53/95 splits) and Deandre Ayton (19 points, 8 rebounds on 59/50/57), with Mikal Bridges upping his rebound skills (7.3 per game) while getting even better on defense to help the Suns rank 4th overall against some good offensive competition.
NBA.com’s comments on the Suns early games:
The opener on Wednesday brought a little deja vu, with the Suns trailing the Mavs by as many as 22 points early in the third quarter. But they kept in touch and turned the game around with a 27-7 fourth-quarter run, in which Devin Booker scored or assisted on 21 of the 27 points. Seeing them close a game without Chris Paul on the floor was strange, but Damion Lee made Monty Williams look like the Coach of Year by hitting the game-winner when the Mavs got the ball out of Booker’s hands.
Clutchness can be fleeting and the Suns lost in overtime in Portland two nights later. But before he missed the game-tying free throws, Deandre Ayton did get a pair of encouraging defensive stops (one block when it looked like was beat and one steal) on Damian Lillard drives. The big man has finished well in the paint but has just seven free throw attempts to go with his 44 shots from the field. As a team, the Suns have been outscored by 7.0 points per game (the league’s fourth-worst discrepancy) from the line.
Warriors: No Donte DiVincenzo (hamstring) and Andre Iguodala (hip) are OUT
Suns: Jae Crowder’s continued absence and Ish Wainright (two-way) with back stiffness have them OUT. Cam Johnson (hip) is no longer being listed on the injury report.
Best Starting Fives
Barring new injuries, this will be the first-ever meeting between the Warriors and Suns best five-man starting lineup
In 2020-21, the Warriors were missing Steph and Klay. Last year, they were missing Klay for the first three meetings, then Steph was out in the 4th meeting.
Let’s see how it go.
The Suns will be debuting their throwback 90s uniform tonight, so I’m fully expecting to be awash in nostalgia for the 93 Finals run.
It’s too early in the season to know how this game on TNT will unfold before it happens. We could see a blowout either way or a close one. But it will almost certainly be entertaining and a little chippy.
That’s why we tune in!