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Nets head to Phoenix to face Suns

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Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Well that was something. The Brooklyn Nets took their show on the road to Sacramento to play the Kings last night. Although the final score was only Nets by 11, Brooklyn bludgeoned the Kings in the second half and came away with their third straight victory.

The opponent tonight will be the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix is sporting their best team since the last days of the Steve Nash x Amare Stoudemire and are a good bet to make it back to the playoffs since the good ole days of 2010. They extended their winning streak to six after beating the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and TNT on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Late night party so we’re getting started after 10:30 PM. Originally, this game was due to start at 10, but the league pushed it back some.

Injuries

Kyrie Irving is a late scratch with lower back tightness. Kevin Durant is out too, but Steve Nash said KD’s hamstring injury isn’t a long term worry. That’s some good news. Andre Roberson, officially signed Tuesday, is available. Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Iman Shumpert are all out.

All clear for Monty Williams and friends.

The game

After this game, the Suns have two days off before starting a back-to-back that will take them to New Orleans and Memphis.

If you hear more crowd noise than usual, there’s a good reason for that. The Suns recently started allowed up to 1500 fans into the arena to watch the game. Now, they’re upping the ante and are allowing 3000 fans into the building. Hopefully everyone is safe, COVID free and enjoys themselves at the game. And if your state is doing what they need to and making the vaccine accessible to you, definitely get it. We’re not out of the COVID woods yet, but we’re getting there.

Theoretically, you’d think the Suns would be near the top of the league in three point attempts, right? However, they’re in the middle of the pack in attempts and actually trending downward. Matthew Lissy of Bright Side of the Sun has more on that here. One of my bugaboos about the way some teams play now is they sell out too much for threes instead of using the whole court to get shots that fit their team best. Glad to see the Suns doing what works for them.

That said, they may need to get the long range going in a hurry. The Nets set a team record with 27 three pointers last night and when they get rolling, are practically impossible to slow down. And all that happened without Kevin Durant.

So what do you do to slow down Devin Booker? Although Book’s scoring numbers and trips to the free throw line are down a bit from what we’re used to, he’s still one of the most dynamic scorers in basketball and someone that’s getting better by the day. Booker was able to boost his rep and vault the Suns back into respectability in the bubble and now that the team is trying to make some noise, Booker is due to climb even higher.

In the mean time, Booker will be dueling with Kyrie Irving. As a bucket getter, very few people in the league can keep up with Irving. His scoring arsenal was on full display as he scored a season high 40 points and knocked down a season high nine three pointers as well last night. Perhaps most amazingly, he did all of that in only 30:43 of playing time. With Durant in and out of the lineup, Irving has been able to keep things steady and now that everyone is starting to fully lock in and get comfortable, he’ll be able to take his game to even higher heights. I noted after last night’s game that he looked happy as hell, and when you’re as good as he is, you’ve got a lot of reasons to feel good on the court.

With the Brooklyn big man rotation in flux, DeAndre Ayton could be in line for a big night. No stop and start this year for the former number one pick as he’s appeared in all 26 of the Suns’ games this season and is fourth in rebounds per game. He had a pretty up and down week, but he has all the potential in the world to be a star. Jeff Green started at center last night, and he’s done a capable job at the five for the Nets. With DeAndre Jordan back, the Nets have the makings of a big man rotation in the works. Now they’re gonna need to find a way to fully incorporate Noah Vonleh into things as well.

The game will be the first time Suns legends Steve Nash, Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire will return to Phoenix since the Nets hired them as coaches this summer.

Player to watch: Chris Paul

CP3 is the head of the Players’ Association, and I’m pretty aggravated with the PA and the NBA office, which I talked about in detail here.

Back on the court, CP3 has been a godsend for the Suns. He’s still the perfect distributor and his court vision, knowledge, and passion will continue serving him well the deeper he gets into his career. Paul and Booker have started to get more comfortable running the Suns offense and with their growth comes more opportunities for Phoenix.

His old Houston Rockets teammate will be running point for Brooklyn. James Harden has settled into his role as distributor in Brooklyn and pulled in his fifth triple double since moving East, tying him for second in franchise history already. With Durant being out, Harden has struck a perfect rhythm of getting great looks for his teammates and taking over with his shot when the situation calls for it.

From the Vault

Seven Seconds or Less 4eva!!!

More reading: Bright Side of the Sun