There was a lot of talk in the aftermath of the 2021 NBA Finals about the long-term prospects of this group of Phoenix Suns. Much like the Milwaukee Bucks in the East, Phoenix’s run to the championship round in last year’s playoffs was largely chalked up to injuries on other teams. Questions were raised as well about the future of 37 year old point guard Chris Paul, who was set to become a free agent after the season. Much of Phoenix’s newfound maturity last year had been credited to Paul, who had been traded to Phoenix the previous offseason after spending a year with a similarly young team in Oklahoma City and taking that team to the NBA Bubble playoffs. After finally making his first trip to the Finals, would the 11x All Star help Phoenix run it back? Would it even matter?
Through the first 15 games of the season, that answer has been a resounding yes. Paul re-upped seemingly immediately, with Phoenix managing to also get deals done with 4 other players from their championship run. At 13-3, they’ve been among the best teams in the league, second in the West to only the resurgent Golden State Warriors. The defense has been better than the offense, but nonetheless they rank in the top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive efficiency, a combination that has them currently riding a 12-game win streak. You would have to go back to October 27th to see an L in the win/loss column.
The Suns comes to San Antonio on a SEGABABA as part of a home/away set, while the Spurs had the weekend off. They’ve lost 4 straight and are coming off the worst one, a 115-90 loss at the end of a road trip to Minnesota where they couldn’t get anything going early on. With 3 days off to re-calibrate, Gregg Popovich’s group will hope to get off to a much better start tonight.
San Antonio Spurs (4-11) vs. Phoenix Suns (13-3)
November 22, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports SW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Jock Landale (Out — COVID Protocols),
Suns Injuries: Dario Saric (ACL — OUT), Frank Kaminsky (knee — Out), Abdel Nader (Out)
What to watch for
- The Spurs let Minnesota get off 16 3PA in the first quarter of their last loss, of which Minny was able to knock down 7 of them. Phoenix doesn’t shoot nearly as many 3s as Minnesota, but they are more efficient. While some of their players have struggled early on as far as percentages go, Phoenix has a roster full of guys who let it fly with no hesitation if the opportunity presents itself. The Spurs will need to run these guys off the three point line and force them into tough looks if they want to end their recent skid.
- If they’re able to run Phoenix off the line at a manageable rate, they’ll have to worry about the impact an inside player like DeAndre Ayton could have against them. Ayton is shooting an absurd 77% inside the restricted area this season, while also taking more than half of his 99 FGA in that part of the court.
- Derrick White has had as rough as start to the season shooting the ball as is possible for someone of his caliber. His defense has once again been stellar and he’s averaging a career high in assists (5.3), but he’s been shooting well below his career marks. His 29.9% mark from 3 is more than 5 points below his average mark for his career, and in a starting line-up starved of outside shooting, much of the Spurs’ potential lies in a guy like White taking and making those long-distance looks at a decent clip. Perhaps tonight is the night he turns the corner?
- Keldon Johnson, meanwhile, has seemed to have turned the corner as far the long ball is concerned. After a slow start to the year, he’s gotten his percentage up to 38% on a respectable volume (3.0 3PA). Johnson lacks the wiggle that is typically associated with a number one option, and while he may never end up being a consistent threat to pull up off the dribble, the threat of the 3 pointer could open up his game immensely.
- There is not a whole lot to be said about Devin Booker. The 7th year guard has every offensive move in the book and is once again having a great season. The Spurs have a host of bodies they can and will send his way. Whether that has any affect on him remains to be seen.
For the Suns fan’s perspective, please visit Bright Side of the Sun
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.