Following their impressive victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at home ten days ago, the Brooklyn Nets have suffered four straight defeats. They’re looking to avoid a fifth one when they travel to face the Phoenix Suns, who beat them at Barclays Center a week ago, 122-114.
Although Brooklyn have the second best offense in the NBA with 114.3 points per game, it’s unlikely they will win the game unless they improve their defensive performance. In their last four games, the Nets have conceded an average of 119.3 points per outing. Suffice to say, they will continue racking up defeats unless they find a way to improve their rearguard.
Phoenix, meanwhile, are coming into this one looking to snap a two-game losing streak. They were defeated 112-95 by the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, with T. J. Warren top-scoring for the Suns with a rather modest 17 points. The Suns return to Arizona after a five-game road trip that included an impressive win over the Washington Wizards but turned sour following defeats to the Knicks and Spurs on back-to-back nights. Just like Brooklyn, Phoenix’s defensive line is leaky with the Suns conceding 115.2 points per game over their past five encounters. This one shapes to be a shootout.
Three keys to the game
Filling the Booker void: When Devin Booker has a quiet night, the Suns seem destined for defeat. That was certainly the case against the Spurs. The Phoenix linchpin managed just nine points on Sunday night, along with three rebounds and two assists. The Suns need to curb their reliance on Booker and start getting some big performances from others.
Three Suns players came off the bench and posted double-digit points totals against the Spurs. The problem was that none of the starting five really fired on the night. Regardless, a repeat of such handy contributions from the second unit could go a long way to helping the Suns inflict more woe on the Nets.
Rebounds: The battle of the boards shapes as a key factor in deciding this game. Both teams average respectable rebound totals per game (45.2 for Brooklyn, 47 for Phoenix), which puts them in the upper echelon of this category.
Matchup to watch
D’ Angelo Russell vs Devin Booker: D’Angelo Russell is Brooklyn’s top scorer, averaging 21.1 points along with 5.3 assists per game. Booker (23.4 points, 5 rebounds, 3.8 assists) is a more versatile guard that has a decent 3-point percentage (38.3%), too. Both, however, are coming off quiet games and will need to bounce back to given their side the edge.
Brooklyn Nets projected starting lineup
PG – D’ Angelo Russell | SG – Caris LeVert | SF – DeMarre Carroll | PF – Rondae Hollis Jefferson | C – Timofey Mozgov
Phoenix Suns projected starting lineup
PG – Mike James | SG – Devin Booker | SF – Josh Jackson | PF – T. J. Warren | C – Tyson Chandler
DeMarre Carroll has been a quiet achiever for the Nets with 13.6 points and 6.4 boards per game this season. Yet, after starting the season with five consecutive double-digit point tallies, Carroll endured a quiet patch. He may have turned things around with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in Friday’s defeat to the Lakers, and could be a sneaky fantasy play here. For the Suns, it’s all about Booker. Coming off arguably his worst performance of the season, the Phoenix guard is primed to bounce back and take advantage of the generous Brooklyn defense.
The over 226 points option might seem large on first impression, but take into the account the aforementioned average points these teams are conceding and it all of a sudden appears a shrewd play. Go over.
The well-rested Nets snap their four-game losing streak at the expense of a tired Suns outfit that is playing for a third consecutive night. Brooklyn win, 120-115.
Tip-off is at 9 pm ET at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. Watch on League Pass, YES Network and Fox Sports Arizona.
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