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Game Preview: Struggling Suns look to get back on track against Wizards in The Valley

The Washington Wizards go into this matchup losing their last four consecutive games in a row. Meanwhile, the Suns have lost four of their last five games and look to get some momentum without star Bradley Beal.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (13-11) vs. Washington Wizards (4-20)

When: 6:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center Phoenix, AZ

Watch: ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM

CBS Sports Betting Line: Suns -12.5 O/U 244.5 Suns Moneyline -675


The Phoenix Suns are in a slump, to say the least at the moment, as they have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Unfortunately, to make matters worse they just lost Bradley Beal for multiple weeks due to an ankle injury suffered on Friday Night against the Knicks. Just another unfortunate event that occurred that adds to Beal’s lengthy injury history, as Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo landed within his shooting space causing the awkward landing.

With Beal out, the emphasis on reserve guard play courtesy of the likes of Grayson Alen and Eric Gordon will be a significant factor going forward into the next few weeks. Luckily, Allen returned and instantly contributed on Friday adding 13 points in his return. Eric Gordon is officially listed as probable to play on Sunday also, which will add additional help in the playmaking department as well as his patented dribble drives.

Taking a look at Beal’s former team, the Washington Wizards, and as expected they have been struggling to stay afloat this season. Sitting at a record of a comedic 4-20 (yet still doubling the win total of the Eastern Conference last-placed team in the Detroit Pistons), Washington appears to have not found their footing as a team and overall long-term identity.

This continues into recent news, with a proposal reached from their ownership, Monumental Sports Group, in which they are planning on relocating the club to a suburb of Virginia. This would bring the Wizards and the Washington Capitals across the Potomac River to a entertainment supercenter including a brand new arena at an estimated construction cost of $2.2 B.

Although this move will not be completed until an estimated 2028, the longtime DC fans surely cannot be happy about ownership completing the move outside of the heart of the city. This will surely test the loyalty of plenty of the nation’s capital supporters, as the Wizards have not found true success as contenders since the berth of the teams’ current branding. In fact, the team last escaped the second round of the playoffs in 1978 when they were still referred to as the Washington Bullets.

On the flip side, the move surely will invite plenty of job opportunities and more infrastructure opportunities for fan experience. Therefore, the chance to start a new era of DC (kind of) basketball is in the realm of possibility with extensive plans for a completely modernized approach to a sports mega-center led by owner Ted Leonsis.

Still, the foundational history of the team will be something that is lost in the transaction, and in turn, will be interesting to monitor the overall charisma of all stakeholders of the franchise going forward.

Anyway enough business talk, and back to the Suns’ matchup against the Washington (Northern Virginia? Alexandria?) Wizards. The Wizards are in the midst of a four-game consecutive losing streak on the road, in which majority of the blame can be placed on their lack of production from a defensive standpoint (ranked last in the league) as well as rebounding (also ranked last in the league).

The Wizards actually have been positive on the offensive side of the ball, with being able to generate 116.8 points per night which is good enough for 9th highest across all teams in the league. Unfortunately, they are unable to accumulate enough stops to neutralize the opposing onslaught of baskets. This is similar to what the Suns are struggling with at this point of the season, except multiplied in severity.

The offensive firepower was on display in the Wizards’ last game against the Indiana Pacers which resulted in a 137-123 win over the In-Season Tournament runner-ups. Both Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole finished the game with over 30 points, including a dominant first half from Poole going an efficient 8-12 from the field.

As for the Suns, as previously mentioned, they just allowed the New York Knicks to score a lofty 139 points on Friday night with All-Star guard Jalen Brunson leading the pack with a personal career-high 50 points in The Valley. The Knicks seemingly got whatever they wanted from beyond the arc, shooting 59% from three and hitting 17 threes during the offensive meteor strike that landed in The Valley.

Losing Bradley Beal early in the contest clearly affected both the fanbase and the team, as the injury occurred just 5 minutes in after Beal just returned to the lineup in the previous game against Brooklyn. The entire city of Phoenix synchronized in gasps as the coveted veteran went down awkwardly on both ankles after drilling a three.

However, the issues the Suns are facing extend largely past the health of their team, with numerous question marks surrounding their defensive efficiency and rim deterrence continually popping up. Phoenix is in the bottom half of the league in both opposing points in the paint as well as total overall points allowed, which plays a heavy emphasis on their struggles against higher-caliber offensive teams.

In terms of the source of these struggles, it could be attributed to a variety of factors including (but not limited to) defensive gameplan, rotational problems, team chemistry, schemes, or simply just lacking the appropriate personnel to match up against teams that have players that can present mismatches.

The trade machine surely will be fired up on Twitter in the near future, but don’t be surprised if GM James Jones is already making calls to bolster their wing depth in the near future and leading into the deadline.

Regardless, the Suns' recent inability to get stops has grounded the team into trading baskets with the opposing squad, which has not been a contest they have been successful in with losing 4 of their last 5 games and allowing an average of 118.75 PPG.

Phoenix will have to readjust their rotation to account for Beal’s injury and make the necessary changes to start locking up on the defensive side of the ball. Frank Vogel has not been shy in giving everyone on the roster an opportunity to prove their worth in some capacity (yes, even Bol Bol), but it will be interesting to see if the gameplan of rewarding minutes will continue to revolve around defensive performance.

Within this matchup with the Wizards, defense will be key in carving a victory. The Suns will have to get stops on a team that has plenty of shot-creators and dynamic scorers that have the ultimate green-light to take control in what will surely be a revolving door of offense from both sides.

Likely Starting Lineups

Suns

  • G Devin Booker
  • G Grayson Allen
  • G Eric Gordon
  • F Kevin Durant
  • C Jusuf Nurkic

Wizards

  • G Tyus Jones
  • G Jordan Poole
  • F Deni Avdija
  • F Kyle Kuzma
  • C Daniel Gafford

Injury Report

Phoenix:

  • Nassir Little - QUESTIONABLE (left knee soreness)
  • Bradley Beal - OUT (ankle)
  • Josh Okogie - OUT (hip)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (right meniscus surgery)

Wizards:

  • Delon Wright - OUT (knee)
  • Johnny Davis - OUT (calf)
  • Landry Shamet - OUT (ribs)

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of NBA LockerVision:

Team Stats Comparison

(per TeamRankings)

Phoenix:

Points/Game 115.4 (#13)

Opp Points/Game 114.2 (#16)

Avg Score Margin +1.2 (#13)

Opp Avg Score Margin -1.2 (#13)

Fastbreak Pts/Gm 11.1 (#29)

Opp Fastbreak Pts/Gm 13.6 (#8)

Pts in Paint/Gm 47.3 (#21)

Opp Pts in Paint/Gm 52.9 (#23)

Assists/Game 26.2 (#11)

Opp Assists/Game 25.0 (#8)

Total Rebounds/Gm 52.8 (#13)

Opp Total Rebounds/Gm4 9.9 (#5)

Assists/FGM 0.648 (#8)

Opp Assists/FGM 0.596 (#5)

Assists/Turnover 1.768 (#22)

Opp Assists/Turnover 2.016 (#24)

Washington:

Points/Game116.8 (#9)’

Opp Points/Game126.8 (#30)

Avg Score Margin -10.0 (#28)

Opp Avg Score Margin +10.0 (#28)

Fastbreak Pts/Gm 17.1 (#2)

Opp Fastbreak Pts/Gm 14.2 (#17)

)Pts in Paint/Gm 56.7 (#2)

Opp Pts in Paint/Gm 59.4 (#29)

Assists/Game 27.9 (#6)

Opp Assists/Game 30.1 (#30)

Total Rebounds/Gm 46.1 (#30)

Opp Total Rebounds/Gm 57.4 (#30)

Assists/FGM 0.634 (#12)

Opp Assists/FGM 0.633 (#20)

Assists/Turnover 1.953 (#10)

Opp Assists/Turnover 2.031 (#25)

What to Watch For

Look for a game where a lot of three-pointers are taken from both teams to capture an edge on catching fire from an offensive standpoint. The Wizards have strong three-point shooters such as Corey Kispert and Jordan Poole that can beat you exclusively from beyond the arc, and therefore the Suns need to prioritize perimeter and transition defense to limit clean looks.

Meanwhile, the Suns will have to be able to balance their attack by getting into the paint and getting Gafford into foul trouble. However, Phoenix will also have to monitor rookie forward Bilal Coulibaly who can create issues in passing lanes with a 7’2” wingspan. Controlling the free throw line through rim pressure generated off dribble drives from a combo of Durant, Book, and Grayson Allen will help give the Suns a competitive advantage as well.

Considering both teams’ recent track record, this will most likely be a high-scoring affair. This matchup could prove to be the ultimate trap game for Phoenix too, especially as a team that is looking for some relief in their schedule to carve out some wins at home (6-8 record on the season). The team that asserts defense the most effectively will most likely take this one, so this means that Nassir Little and Jordan Goodwin (revenge game opportunity) will have to be major contributors in this one.

With Beal out for the next few weeks, Durant has to dominate touches in his matchup with his hometown team in conjunction with Devin Booker. Having Eric Gordon (PROBABLE) back in the lineup will be a much-needed bonus, but a positive shooting performance from Kevin Durant and establishing his threat early will make the night easier for the team.

However, as it normally goes when stars go down, the next man-up mentality comes into play. Whether it is one of the reserve guards or some combination of wings/front-court players between the likes of Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu (who has been playing effective minutes recently). The Suns will need reserve help to step up on both sides of the ball.

The Wizards have sneaky veterans on the bench who could give them this same edge as well, with known Suns killer and Booker’s childhood friend in Danillo Gallinari (the picture is out there somewhere). In addition, the aforementioned Coulibaly and Corey Kispert bring shooting on the wing that will give Suns defenders problems if they are not prepared.

No Landry Shamet return in this one in what would have been his first debut back in the Valley, but he is yet another case of a player on Washington’s roster that can really get going if he catches lightning in a bottle.

Ultimately, it will most likely be an unhinged offensive display of two different stages of teams both facing similar defensive lapses. Fortunately for the Suns, they have the leadership of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant to guide them in the right direction.

Prediction

The Suns will have to maintain their patience and play smart to win this one. The Suns need to win and convincingly at that against a Wizards team that has been all over the place this season. However, Phoenix cannot go into the game overconfident and underestimate the offensive firepower the Wizards bring, as this could dig themselves in a hole that could be too deep to scale out of depending on the point of the game.

I am expecting the usual suspects to have monster games in KD and Book, but hoping for Goodwin to show out against his previous club and hopefully have a bit more motivation representing his former DC teammate in Bradley Beal who will be unable to play.

My prediction is the Suns cover the spread and win convincingly by 15+, but not necessarily in the most easy fashion. Ultimately, I believe the star power the Suns possess will triumph over the Wizards' inability to stay organized throughout the entirety of the 48 minutes.

Suns 130, Wizards 115

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