Time: 7:00 pm MDT
Nothing makes for a great Thanksgiving like juicy turkey, indulgent mashed potatoes, and a sound drubbing of one of the best teams in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns got to sit down to a well-deserved turkey day celebration with the knowledge that their win over the Portland Trail Blazers snapped the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. That win officially put the Suns on the NBA map as a team capable of beating any team on any given night. To cement that status, the Suns need two wins against the hapless Jazz.
Phoenix will play their second home-and-home series of the season over the next two nights. Suns’ fans will remember the first series, against the Kings, didn’t go as planned for Phoenix. But the Suns have come a long way since then. Those were the first two games of Eric Bledsoe’s absence, which has now stretched to six games. The Suns have since learned how to play without Bledsoe and are 3-1 since those losses to Sacramento with their only loss coming at the hands of the defending champs in Miami. A 10-7 record at the end of November was something exactly zero people predicted for the Suns at the outset of this season. But 10-7 is a legitimate possibility because of how hard Phoenix has played at both ends of the floor. The Suns need to take care of business against an inferior opponent tonight. For more on the first game with the Jazz, let’s ask three questions.
Can Goran Dragic keep up his incredible run of play?
Since Eric Bledsoe went down with a bruised shin, Dragic has averaged 20.5 points and just under 9 assists per game. He’s shot nearly 50% from the field and better than 40% from three. Dragic, along with Channing Frye, carried the Suns to their stellar win over Portland at home with 31 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds. This is the Dragic Suns’ fans have hoped to see since he came back to the desert. He’s running the offense precisely and making his teammates better. He’s getting to the rim with impunity and stroking it from outside. Utah doesn’t have anyone to stand in the way of another great Dragic performance. Though rookie Trey Burke is finally back from injury, he is still learning the ropes in the NBA. Tonight will be only his fifth game as a pro. I see Goran having another big game tonight in Utah.
Can Phoenix contain Utah’s frontline? Do they need to?
In their last meeting, the Suns allowed Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to combine for 34 points and 29 rebounds, 14 of which were on the offensive glass. It took a three from Eric Bledsoe as time was winding down to seal the win for the Suns. Kanter and Favors are just as important to Utah as Gordon Hayward. As evidenced by their last game against Phoenix, both young bigs are walking double-doubles who can inflict a ton of damage in the paint. But the Suns have only gotten stronger since the beginning of the year. Channing Frye is playing as well as he has since 2010, and Miles Plumlee is back to double-digit rebound form. They should provide a stiffer challenge to Utah’s frontline this time around.
All that said, if the Suns continue to play the way they have recently, it may not matter if Kanter and Favors go for 40. Phoenix might run the Jazz off the court with their outside shooting and fast break. Utah is a team accustomed to losing. If Phoenix can get them down by double digits early, Utah may not have what it takes to come back.
How much will Phoenix get from the Morris twins?
To say that the Jazz lack depth is an understatement. Other than Alec Burks, Utah has nobody the Suns should fear coming off the bench. The Suns on the other hand have tons of depth with the Morris twins, Ish Smith, and Archie Goodwin. The Morris twins are playing well once again. They combined for 34 points Wednesday night and should have the opportunity for big numbers again tonight in Utah. The Morris twins are the Suns’ cowbell. Phoenix can never get enough. Even after a stellar performance, I’m sure Coach Hornacek, doing his best Christopher Walken, is telling Markieff and Morris, “I need more cowbell.” The Suns can win without stellar performances from the Morris’, but the more Phoenix gets out of the twins, the more dangerous this team can be.