When: 7:00 pm local time (AZ)
Where: Footprint Center — Phoenix, AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
It’s that time of year. Win or go home. Denver or Cancun is the next stop for the Phoenix Suns. Let’s hope they aren’t ready for beaches any time soon.
Elimination games are always nerve-wracking for fans when their team has their back against the wall. Players live for this moment, on both sides. Coaches go all-in. This could be a night where both Booker and Durant play 48 minutes.
The Suns’ last two elimination games with their backs against the wall: Game 7 against Dallas in 2022 and Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals against Milwaukee. I don’t need to remind you how those went down, let’s just hope tonight has a different story for us.
Phoenix is pretty banged up heading into this one, with Chris Paul OUT, Deandre Ayton
questionable OUT and Devin Booker’s foot issue looming. Booker is expected to play and is reportedly fine, but there’s a difference between being postseason “fine” and regular season “fine”. It would take A LOT to keep Booker out of a game of this magnitude.
Deandre Ayton*Jock Landale? Bismack Biyombo?
- Kevin Durant
- Devin Booker
- Landry Shamet*
- Cam Payne
questionable OUT with a rib contusion. If he is unable to go, then expect Jock Landale to step into the starting five.
As for who the fifth starter will be, Shamet was plugged in for Okogie in the 2nd half last game, so that’s where that educated guess is coming from. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them roll with someone with more size there.
- Nikola Jokic
- Aaron Gordon
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- Jamal Murray*
Chris Paul is OUT (groin)
Deandre Ayton is
QUESTIONABLE OUT (ribs)
Jamal Murray is QUESTIONABLE (non-COVID illness)
Jersey Matchup (via Locker Vision)
What to watch
Kevin Durant averages 30.2 PPG in elimination games, which is the 4th most in NBA Playoff History, minimum of 10 games played. The Suns will need their superstar to play like one in order for them to extend the series.
Can KD keep Phoenix's playoff hopes alive? pic.twitter.com/osIquypQuK— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 11, 2023
The key with Durant (and the Suns) will be avoiding another slow start, something that has plagued them time and time again over the years in both the regular season and playoffs.
Booker vs. Joker
This matchup is not a direct one obviously, with each player playing different roles and positions for their respective teams. This game will come down to which superstar rises to the occasion and wills their team to win.
The Suns essentially need one of Booker or Durant to go nuclear to win games with the way this series has gone. Booker being “held” to 28 points was considered a massive win by Denver in Game 5, and that alone shows you how scorching hot Booker has been throughout the playoffs.
Booker is putting up historic numbers through the first 10 games of this playoff run. He is averaging 35.9 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 5.2 RPG on a shooting split of 60/51/87.
He is the first player in NBA history to average 35/5/5 on 60+ FG% in a playoff run.
Role Players At Home
The role players stepping up at home has been a constant theme in the playoffs for years, and it’s been no different in this series. Bruce Brown has been a thorn in the Suns’ side in Denver. Landry Shamet had his breakout game in Game 4.
Who will be the hero tonight? We expect excellence from Jokic, Booker, Durant and Murray, but this game very well could come down to who unexpectedly shows up from “the others”.
TJ Warren is someone to watch in that capacity. He’s started to integrate himself into the rotation and has looked more comfortable these past few games. A breakout 20-point game from Tony Buckets could be just what the doctor ordered.
Inserting him into Okogie’s position for those wide-open opposite corner catch-and-shoot threes is what I’d aim for if I’m Monty Williams. Both Warren and Ross are the type of microwave scorers that could shift momentum with a lively home crowd.
We are also due for a Cam Payne game, but in reality, Booker and Durant just need one more person to step up and make shots consistently. Who will it be?
Prediction: The Suns take care of Denver and send a message as they take this thing back to the Mile High City. It’s not our time for Cancun. 122-111, Suns win.