What: Golden State Warriors (6-8) at Phoenix Suns (8-5)
When: Wednesday, 8:00PM AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM Radio
DraftKings Betting line: Suns are a 1-point favorite at home
Here we go again. Suns. Warriors. 2021 Western Conference Champs vs. the defending 2022 NBA Champs. National television. Early-season showdown.
Last time, only game 4 of the season, the Suns surprisingly curb-stomped the Warriors with a 29-point win. The Suns starters blasted the Warriors’ championship starting lineup, and the Suns bench laid the wood to the Warriors kiddie corps. Life was good in the Valley.
This time won’t be the same, though. For one thing, the Suns are missing Cam Johnson and Chris Paul from the starting lineup, and Landry Shamet from the bench (and still Jae Crowder too).
The Warriors have righted their ship a bit, winning three of their last four, while the Suns stumbled through a Chris-Paul-less road trip to drop to 8-5.
Tonight will be a much tougher matchup for the Suns, who have to figure out how to get to the free throw line a bit more after drawing only TWO free trips (4 FTs) in 48 very physical minutes against the Miami Heat on Monday.
Both teams will wear their City edition uniforms tonight, including the Suns’ new version that honors Arizona heritage with the turquoise and nods to all 22 Native American tribes in the state.
The Suns will also permanently display the flags of Arizona’s 22 Tribal Nations, to be unveiled tonight for the first time. The tribal flags have been permanently installed on the northwest wall inside the main pavilion.
All is not quite right in Warriors-land. Sure they’ve won 3 of 4, but the wins were all at home (Kings, Cavaliers, Spurs), and they are still 0-7 on the road this year including a loss to the Kings on Sunday.
That’s quite the split: 6-1 at home vs. 0-7 on the road.
The biggest change for the Warriors to snap a 5-game losing streak, besides just getting back home to Oracle Arena, was to mostly bench the kiddie corps in place of journeymen Donte DeVincenzo (3 teams in the last year) and Anthony Lamb (3 teams in the last 2 years). I know you want to say Donte is a good player, and he was/could be, but he’s averaging fewer minutes than Lamb and shooting just 33% on threes.
Their best find so far is 25-year old two-way player Anthony Lamb, a 6-6 small forward who’s put up 9 points per game and is making 54% of almost 4 threes per game. He’s on his third team in three years. Where do they find these two-way gems? First Jordan Poole. Then Gary Payton II. Now Lamb?
Anyway, the bigger story is the Warriors are better at finding guys in weird places than the draft. Former No. 2 overall Wiseman is benched. Former top-10 pick Moses Moody is mostly benched. And former top-10 pick Jonathan Kuminga was benched earlier this season and is still getting 30% fewer minutes than two-way Lamb. And don’t tell me the ‘Warriors Way’ is hard to fit into — these dudes should be able to look good with Hall of Famers getting all the attention around them.
Anyway, bottom line is that the Warriors are starting to round into form now that their bench is at least not losing all their leads anymore.
Stephen Curry is playing out of his mind this season (31.5/6.4/6.6 with 52/43/92 splits), and that’s all you really need as long as the other guys just carry the water.
Life without Chris Paul has been tough. He’s been out for almost four full games with a sore right heel, and is still listed as ‘QUESTIONABLE’ for tonight’s game.
Without him, the Suns have badly stumbled. They went 1-3 on their road trip back East this week with losses to the 76ers, Magic and Heat. Only one of them (Heat) was even competitive and even in that game they were outscored 24-10 in the final eight minutes to lose by 1.
The interim starting lineup of Cameron Payne — Devin Booker — Mikal Bridges — Torrey Craig — Deandre Ayton is a gawdawful MINUS-31 per 100 possessions this year (meaning, if they played 48 minutes, they’d post a 31-point loss every time). In 83 actual minutes together over 9 games this season, they’ve been outscored by 47 points. But hey, yeah, let’s keep giving that group the most minutes, Monty.
Remember a week ago, the Suns had the league’s second-best offense, second best defense and best overall net rating as a team?
That’s gone. On that ill-fated road trip, they’ve posted a mid-pack offense, bottom-five defense and bottom-10 net rating. That current starting lineup is the biggest culprit.
Suns head coach Monty Williams is a patient man. Often too patient. Why keep running out that five-man unit over and over again when you know it just doesn’t work?
I know they don’t have another way to turn at point guard, but Cam Payne hasn’t been playing bad at all — averaging 17 points, 5.5 assists, 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and 41/38/83 splits. Still, I’d like to see more of two-way Duane Washington Jr., especially after he posted 21 points and 4 assists in Monday’s game vs. the Heat. Start Cam, but go to Duane quickly if the scoreboard starts looking scary.
Maybe it’s tome for Torrey Craig to go back to a bench role and the Suns shift to real-small-ball around Ayton. Damion Lee is only 6’4” but he plays hard, plays right, makes big shots and might want to prove something to Golden State (Curry is his brother-in-law and the Warriors his team the last four years).
Here’s the deal. Warriors are 0-7 on the road. Suns are 6-1 at home, and they’re probably really frustrated with having lost 3 of their last 4.
I’m going to predict the Suns play extra hard in this one, especially given the opponent, and have the lead in the fourth quarter.
From there on, especially if Chris Paul can’t go, who knows what’s going happen. You’d be looking at a clutch time of Golden State’s world beating starting lineup vs. a Paul-less Suns squad that just got outscored 24-10 to close out Monday’s game in Miami.
Hope for a meaningless Suns blowout, Suns fans!