After firing their former coach Earl Watson the Suns look like a new team. Yes, they went down to the Portland Trail Blazers in their most recent outing but they improved that margin significantly. After losing to them by 48 points in their opening game, they only went down by seven on Sunday night. Devin Booker looked great in that loss, posting 34 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Most significantly, they’re giving effort on both sides of the floor which is a far cry from their opening two games.
The Nets suffered their second consecutive loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets who took care of them with ease by 13 points. In the absence of Jeremy Lin, reserve guard Spencer Dinwiddie has really stepped up and his performance against the Nuggets was admirable despite the loss. He was able to put up 22 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals coming off the bench. While the Nets’ offense hasn’t been a problem, it’s the defensive end where the team has been lacking. In their past two games they’ve given up a total of 231 points; for them to get back to their winning ways they’re going to need to tighten that up significantly.
Three keys to the game
Taking care of the ball – D’Angelo Russell turned the ball over six times in the team’s loss to the Nuggets while there were also turnovers aplenty in their loss to the Knicks. For a team that’s defense has been waning the Nets need to be more careful with the ball. Booker also coughed up the ball four times in their loss to Portland, but his usage rate, like Russell’s, is much higher. The team that can capitalize on the other’s turnovers will create easy offense and put the pressure on their opponent.
Offensive and defensive balance – The Suns have gotten a better balance between these two keys areas in their past few games. The Nets are still a work in progress. They allowed the Nuggets to shoot a stunning 55% from 3-point range and 50% from the field. If they allow the Suns the same ease from the field they can expect themselves to suffer a third loss in a row.
Nailing shots – Some of the Nets’ best offensive players were very poor from the field against the Nuggets. Russell, Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert were a combined 9 of 32 from the field, which is horrible considering their collective offensive talent. On the flip side, Booker went 11 of 19 against the Trail Blazers. Whoever can make the most of their opportunities will go a long way to winning the game.
Matchup to watch
Devin Booker vs D’Angelo Russell – Both of these young guards have the potential to be franchise players. Their offensive ceiling is incredible and Booker has shown capabilities on the defensive side as well. Look for these two to trade buckets on a regular basis as the best isolation players for each team. Each team relies on both of these guys to generate a heap of offense; whoever has the better game is likely to lead their team to a win.
Phoenix Suns projected starting lineup
PG – Mike James | SG – Devin Booker | SF – TJ Warren | PF – Marquese Chriss | C – Tyson Chandler
Brooklyn Nets projected starting lineup
PG – Spencer Dinwiddie | SG – D’Angelo Russell | SF – Caris LeVert | PF – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | C – Timofey Mozgov
Look for Russell to have a bounce back game against the Suns. Their lack of talent other than Booker in the backcourt should allow him to dominate a weaker opponent. His passing has improved but as mentioned above he needs to tighten up on turnovers. Look for him to post a near point-assist double-double with somewhere in the realm of 20 points and ten assists.
The Nets are marginal favorites in what is sure to be a close game. Go with the Nets to redeem themselves in this one; the depth of talent on their roster outmatches that of the Suns, despite the Suns having the best player overall in Booker.
Brooklyn get their season back on track and go above .500. The Suns won’t make it easy and will be motivated to continue their winning ways. This one could be a shootout as well, so expect both teams to push the 120-point mark. Ultimately, the Nets win it, 120-115.
Catch this game on league pass, the YES Network and Fox Sports Arizona. Tip off is at 7.30 pm ET at Barclays Center.
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