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Game Preview: Suns fighting adversity on long, cold road trip, face Wizards in DC

The Phoenix Suns flew from Memphis to DC on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning for a quick back-to-back

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (20-15) vs. Washington Wizards (14-21)

When: 5:00 PM AZ time ***EARLY START ALERT**

Where: Capitol One Arena, Washington, DC

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns favored by 2.5 points

It’s the Wizards again. After starting the season 11-10, they lost 10 straight before making a surprising epic comeback to beat the Suns last week in overcoming a late 10-point deficit. They’ve won 2 of 3 since then, with wins over good teams in the Kings and 76ers, and now sit at 14-21 feeling much better about themselves than they did a week ago.

For the Suns side, it was a bad bad game. They came into the game with a 3-game winning streak and led by 10 points (98-88) with about 5 minutes left thanks to a crazy good performance from the bench guys. But then the starters massively failed, partly aided by Chris Paul playing one-armed from a stinger, and they lost by 3 though the final margin should have been 6 or 9.

Now it’s the Wizards at home feeling good about themselves, and with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, and the Suns who are trying anything and everything to patch together a win with a depleted rotation.

Both teams are on the second night of a back to back, though the Suns are the ones who had to travel in between. This is the second week in a row the Suns have to play the Wizards on the back end of a back-to-back.

Starting Lineups

The Wizards play a huge front line with Kristaps in there, so you can expect the Suns to try the Jock/Ayton pairing again to manage the rebounding battle.



  • NEW — Bismack Biyombo (knee soreness) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Devin Booker (groin soreness; in Phoenix for further eval) is OUT
  • Landry Shamet (sore achilles) is OUT
  • Cameron Payne (foot) is OUT
  • Cameron Johnson (knee) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (wtf) is NOT WITH TEAM


  • tbd

Uniform Matchup


Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.

  • Points per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 115.7), Washington (No. 22, 111.3)
  • Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 5, 27.0), Washington (No. 17, 24.6)
  • Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 11, 52.2), Washington (No. 14, 51.3)
  • Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 4, +4.2), Washington (No. 25, -2.3)
  • Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 3), Washington (No. 22)
  • Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 15, 47.1), Washington (No. 11, 47.7)
  • Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 14, 54.3), Washington (No. 16, 54.0)
  • 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 4, 38.3), Washington (No. 20, 34.5)
  • 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 26, 52.4), Washington (No. 10, 55.3)
  • Blocks per game: Phoenix (T-No. 4, 5.5), Washington (T-No. 4, 5.5)
  • Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 16, 7.2), Washington (No. 20, 6.9)
  • Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 4, 13.5), Washington (No. 5, 13.6)
  • Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 111.5), Washington (No. 15, 113.6)
  • Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 15, 46.8), Washington (No. 12, 46.5)
  • Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 10, 53.2), Washington (No. 9, 53.3)
  • Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 36.3), Washington (No. 28, 37.1)
  • Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 52.6), Washington (No. 4, 51.9)
  • Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 12, 51.3), Washington (No. 14, 51.5)

Wizards Update

  • Offensive Efficiency, points per 100 possessions: 111.3 (22nd)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 113.6 (22nd)
  • Net Rating: -2.3 (25th)

They’re just not that good, overall, ranking no better than 22nd in any catch-all category. Sure, they’ve been playing better lately but the 10-game losing streak only ended a week ago.

They snapped last losing streak and beat three winning teams over the past week thanks to an improved offense. Their offense has improved by 6 points per game, flipping that negative ret rating to a positive. The Suns will need to clamp down defensively on the Wizards like they did against Memphis, by flying all over the place on coverages and grabbing every possible rebound. The question is: can the Suns do it on a back-to-back with travel in between? They certainly didn’t do it a week ago at home.

Kyle Kuzma — a rumored trade target of the Suns — has been playing well all year and stepped it up recently. For the season, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. That scoring number is up a tick to 24 per game in this good 4-game run for them (which includes a 30-piece against the Suns).

Kristaps Porzingis is back — he was ill last week and missed the game in Phoenix — and he’s playing very well out of that Luka shadow. Playing full-time power forward helps him, as he’s putting up 21.9 points, 9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game next to Daniel Gafford.

Bradley Beal left last night’s game with a hamstring issue, and his status for tonight’s game is uncertain. The Wizards have players who could contribute well off the bench, including Kispert, a former star college basketball player at Gonzaga, and forward Will Barton, who was a solid contributor for the Nuggets from the 2015-16 season through last season.

Suns Update

First of all, congrats to what’s left of this Phoenix Suns team for laying waste to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, just four days after being humbled on their own court. The Suns beat the Grizzlies 125-108 in a game that was so in-hand the Suns primary starters (Paul, Bridges, Ayton) didn’t even have to play the fourth quarter.

“First time we played, they tried to punk us,” Torrey Craig said to beat reporter Duane Rankin. “They were talking a little bit and that’s the kind of team they are. I just wanted to let them know we can do the same thing, even more.”

Tonight against the Wizards, the Suns will probably need to start Jock Landale again to counter the Wizards sheer size with Gafford (6’9”), KP (7’3”) and Kuzma (6’9”) all at least 6’9”. A week ago, the Suns out-rebounded the Wizards 44-41, but that was without KP in the lineup.

Landale had 16 points and 3 rebounds in his first first at power forward, giving old school Suns fans a Christmas gift with visions of an old school twin-tower lineup.

Speaking of Landale, can we take a minute to give some props to the under-the-radar additions of Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Duane Washington Jr. and Jock Landale this offseason? Every one of them was panned by Suns fans in the offseason, or ignored completely, and every one of them was key in that victory over Memphis last night. They’ve all had impactful games throughout the season and none of them makes more than the league minimum.

Josh Okogie was once again HUGE in his nice-version-of-Dillon-Brooks role. He’s averaged 9 points and 5.2 rebounds over his last 12 games and is an absolute demon defensively and on the boards. He had 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in 25 minutes off the bench in the Memphis win on Tuesday.

Oh, and he did this stuff too...

Damion Lee had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 26 minutes off the bench in that Memphis win, and is still making 49% of his threes this season on 4 attempts per game.

Duane Washington Jr. is an absolute joy to watch. He has zero conscience when it comes to taking shots, is bundle of energy with the ball, and makes things happen constantly. I really think the guy is going to have a long NBA career.

“He gave us a great deal of juice,” head coach Monty Williams told Duane Rankin after the game. “He gave us a bit of an edge.”

Last night, he poured in a season-high 26 points on 21 shots, while also dishing 8 assists, in ONLY 24 minutes of play. Over his last three games played, as the primary CP backup with Cam Payne being injured, DWJ has averaged 16.7 points (50% 3P shooting, 43% overall) and 5.3 assists in only 18 minutes a game off the bench.

With Chris Paul leaving the Memphis game in the third quarter with some kind of leg injury (he said after the game he’d be fine), it’s possible Washington will get even more minutes going forward... until Cam Payne gets back anyway.

Enjoy the benchies, folks!


Tough to make a Suns-positive prediction on the second night of a back to back with travel involved, especially this week with freezing east coast weather and so many flight cancellations and delays. They might be tired and stiff when they take the floor on Wednesday.

Still, I like how the team has played since the Memphis debacle last week, and they’re still in foxhole mode on the road, so let’s assume the Suns play hard again tonight.

If the Suns play hard, they win this game.

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube:

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