After a tough loss in Los Angeles last night, the Brooklyn Nets (40-29) head to Phoenix to face the last place Suns (23-47) Sunday night. The Suns have the worst record in the western conference and have lost 6 of their past 7 games, all by double figures. In their last game, Phoenix lost to Minnesota at home by 31 points. Yikes. The Nets are 2-1 on their season long 8-game road trip.
Honestly, I’m surprised the Suns have played as well as they have this year. Even though they are in last place, they still have a better record than 3 eastern conference teams including Kyrie Irving’s Cavaliers. With the injuries and lack of talent this team has, they should be happy not to be a historically bad squad.
Obviously, Steve Nash is no longer a Sun and the team has moved into a total rebuilding phase. Even though they are rebuilding, the team doesn’t really seem to be heading in any specific direction. They have a very strange mix of young players, a couple players in their prime, and veterans who would probably rather be on a contender. The problem with their young players is that most of them have had opportunities and have failed. Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, and both Morris brothers have had opportunities in the NBA but have yet to play to their expectations.
Then, the Suns have older players like Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat, and Jermaine O’Neal, who all could go to a playoff team like the Celtics and contribute, but are instead stuck in Phoenix. This team has pretty bad chemistry and is counting down the days until the end of the season, so this seems like a game the Nets should easily win.
Injuries: Joe Johnson suffered a quad contusion last night in Los Angeles but came back and finished the game. My guess is that he won’t go in the second night of a back-to-back, but his status is still unknown. Phoenix has a couple of players with major injuries. Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye are out for the year. Jared Dudley is questionable.
Deron Williams vs. Goran Dragic. Advantage: Williams
Dragic has probably been Phoenix’s best player this year. He is averaging 14 points and 7 assists and has recorded double-doubles in his last 4 games. Still, he is not an elite point guard in this league, and Deron Williams is if he plays like he has been since the all-star break. With Joe Johnson likely out, expect Deron to take a slightly larger role than he usually has if this game is close.
Joe Johnson/C.J. Watson vs. Wes Johnson. Advantage: Joe/Watson
Wes Johnson has moved into the starting lineup for Phoenix over the last month. Since starting, he is averaging around 12 ppg, but is still shooting poorly from the field and from 3. This guy was the fourth pick in the draft only 3 years ago and is already an unknown NBA journeyman. He will have the opportunity to play lots of minutes in the last month of the season for Phoenix so maybe he will figures things out eventually. C.J. Watson will start if Joe cannot go. Watson has played very well this year when in the starting lineup.
Gerald Wallace vs. P.J. Tucker. Advantage: Wallace
Tucker, an unknown European journeyman before this season, has found a home and starting spot in Phoenix this season. Although he is offensively challenged and undersized, he is a solid defender. Gerald Wallace had his best offensive game (or quarter) in a long time last night. He probably won’t continue that tonight against Tucker, but who knows.
Reggie Evans vs. Markieff Morris. Advantage: Evans
This will be confusing. Markieff Morris was drafted by the Suns last year and is now starting for the team. His identical twin brother, Marcus, was traded to Phoenix at the trade deadline and is coming off the bench for the Suns. Neither player has yet to become a star in this league, although both seem to have the skills and body to be good players in the future. Neither are especially good rebounders and neither is the Suns’ Center Luis Scola, so Reggie should have a rebound party. Don’t be surprised to see another 20-board game for Reggie.
Brook Lopez vs. Luis Scola. Advantage: Lopez
With Marcin Gortat out for the season, the Suns don’t have a true center on their roster other than Hamed Haddadi. Therefore, Scola has to start at center, opening a huge opportunity for Brook Lopez. Scola really is not a good defender or rebounder and he focuses on offense. Lopez should score 30 tonight if he plays his normal minute amount.
Prediction: Nets 111, Suns 94.
The Suns are a mess right now. Even though the Nets are playing the second game of a back-to-back and will probably not have Joe Johnson, this should be an easy win.