Phoenix were comfortably beaten at home on Friday, going down 97-129 to the Jazz. Josh Jackson had 20 points and Devin Booker had 18, but the Suns were unable to stop Donovan Mitchell, who had 40 points on 19 field goal attempts.
Phoenix are now 18-35, and have lost eight of their past ten games. They are in 13th place in the Western Conference standings.
Charlotte had an impressive victory on Friday when they beat Indiana 133-126. Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum combined for 72 points, and the Hornets scored a franchise record 49 points in the first quarter.
The win was their second in a row, and left them with a record of 22-29. They are in 11th place in the east.
Three keys to the game
Batum’s form - Batum has had a season filled with struggles related to both injury and form, but there are signs he is coming out the other side. He had 31 points against the Pacers, including 7-11 from beyond the arc, had a triple-double the previous game, and went 5-10 from downtown on his way to 22 points the game before that. His ability to score in a number of ways, as well as facilitate and defend various positions, makes him a valuable player for Charlotte, and they are a much better team when he is playing well.
Phoenix’s defense - The suns haven’t been good at this end of the floor all year, conceding a league-high 110.9 points per 100 possessions. In the past ten games though, their defense has become catastrophic. Their defensive rating in this time is 114.4, and is a major reason for their 2-8 record in recent weeks.
Turnovers - Charlotte have been one of the best teams in the NBA at taking care of the basketball this season. They turn it over on just 13.1% of possessions, better than every other team except for Minnesota. In contrast, Phoenix gives it up on 15.3% of possessions, just 0.1% better than the second worst offender in the league.
Matchup to watch
Kemba Walker vs Devin Booker - The battle at point guard will be an entertaining one between two guys with plenty of talent. Walker averages 22.8 points and 5.9 assists a game, but is one of the more exciting players in the league to watch when he is on. In his past five games, he has been exactly that, scoring 32.2 points a night. Booker is having a career best season, averaging 24.3 points and 4.8 assists as the leader of the young Suns. He has struggled of late though - barring a 31 point game against Houston, he has failed to reach 20 points in Phoenix’s past six games.
Phoenix Suns predicted starting lineup
PG - Devin Booker | SG - Josh Jackson | SF - Marquese Chriss | PF - TJ Warren | C - Tyson Chandler
Charlotte Hornets predicted starting lineup
PG - Kemba Walker | SG - Nicolas Batum | SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF - Frank Kaminsky | C - Dwight Howard
Booker has been serviceable in his four career games against Charlotte, averaging 17 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists a night against them.
Walker has enjoyed his ten career games against Phoenix - his average of 23.6 points per game is the highest split of his career, while his 6.6 assists is the second most.
Phoenix have been given a 5.5 point head start by oddsmakers, and Charlotte are a good bet to cover this. Though they haven’t been a great side this season, their offense has clicked into gear the past couple of games, and against a very leaky Phoenix defense they should be able to cover this line.
Charlotte should have too much talent on the floor for the Suns in this one. Walker and Batum are significantly more experienced than their backcourt opponents, while Howard should dominate at center against a Chandler who is well past his prime.
Phoenix have been even worse than usual on the defensive end of the floor during their past ten games, while Charlotte have averaged 129.5 points in their past two outings. They will be too strong for the Suns, and will run out 120-110 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 3pm ET.