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Game Preview: Suns look for revenge against Pelicans, but could be without Booker

The Phoenix Suns will face the New Orleans Pelicans for the second straight game.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (16-10) at New Orleans Pelicans (17-8)

When: 1:30 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Pelicans are favored by 3 points


Things are going downhill for the Suns, fast. They’ve lost three straight games, getting decimated in two of those three, and have now potentially lost Devin Booker for a game or two.

Booker is diagnosed with a hamstring tightness according to Monty Williams. Given his past history with that injury, being overly cautious about this injury makes sense from the Suns point of view.

While they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference at 16-10, they are only two games ahead of the 6th-seeded Jazz and just 2.5 games back from the play-in bracket.

Things got chippy Friday night after Zion Williamson threw down the exclamation point 360-dunk to close the game out when it was already clearly decided. Jose Alvarado being the instigator that he is, started talking with Chris Paul after the dunk which led to the benches clearing altercation that took place after the game. It got heated.

Suns players and coaches were exchanging words with the Pelicans players and coaches alike. Willie Green and Kevin Young notably exchanged words, as the tensions flared.

The Pelicans are understandably salty after getting eliminated last postseason by Phoenix in what was a physical series with plenty of drama.

That chippy attitude and mindset carried over into the game as the Pels played with an edge and a clear chip on their shoulder as they took the Suns out without Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones.

Projected Starting Lineups

Phoenix

  • Chris Paul
  • Landry Shamet
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Torrey Craig
  • Deandre Ayton

New Orleans

  • CJ McCollum
  • Dyson Daniels
  • Trey Murphy III
  • Zion Williamson
  • Jonas Valanciunas

INJURY REPORT

Phoenix:

  • Cam Johnson (right knee) is OUT
  • Devin Booker (hamstring) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Duane Washington Jr. (hip) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (NOT WITH TEAM) is OUT

New Orleans:

  • Brandon Ingram (left big toe) is OUT
  • Herbert Jones (left ankle) is OUT

What to watch

Who steps up?

Phoenix being down Booker clearly leads to the question of which player will step up most in his absence. Mikal Bridges is the player I’m looking at here. Ayton and Paul both showed out on Friday night despite the tough loss.

Landry Shamet hitting shots would also be a sight for sore eyes, so keep an eye out for his output should he fill in the starting lineup for Booker. There’s also a shot Damion Lee could step into the starting two spot if Book is out.

Defending Zion is a chore for any team, but with Phoenix missing a pair of wing defenders they had last season the task gets tougher. That’s another storyline to watch to see how Monty and co. adjust for the second game of this “miniseries”.

Free throw battle

The Suns have been consistently getting killed in the free throw department for years now, and the game on Friday night was no different.

While it’s easy to complain as a fan, part of it is the lack of rim pressure the Suns provide. Outside of Booker and occasionally Ayton not too many players on this roster seek out contact in the paint. When they do attack are they getting a fair whistle? I think not. But they also have to attack more consistently and not settle for as many jumpers or fadeaways.

This statistic below presented by our John Voita is... not great.

Prediction

Pelicans punch back again and are too much to handle for a Suns team likely without Booker and Cam Johnson. New Orleans wins by 9.

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