Time: 8:30 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe Phoenix Suns return from the Christmas break as one of the hotter teams in the league and winning eight of their last ten games, including a 106-102 win over these Golden State Warriors 12 days ago. The Warriors are coming off an emotional two point victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day that saw multiple ejections and a scrum that broke out at the end of the game.
Two of the next three games for the Suns will be on the road against two Pacific Division rivals with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers sandwiched in-between. The Suns have a 7-6 road record and are one of only eight teams to have a winning record away from home.
“Road wins,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said when asked what he is most proud of this season. “Winning on the road in the NBA is very difficult and to have a team with new guys not expected to do much, I think it is pretty good to be where we are at.”
Teams that have success on the road need confidence to do that. Hornacek believes that confidence came in early season losses to Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
The Warriors are 10-4 at home this season and the Suns will need to play a very sound game to steal one in Oakland. Here are my keys to the game.
Is Andre Iguodala a difference-maker?
He has been instrumental in the Warriors’ success this season and the team struggled by going 5-7 when he had to sit out 12 games — that stretch included the loss to the Suns. With Iguodala in the lineup, as he will be Friday, the Warriors are a 12-6 team. Iguodala fills up stat sheets every night, but it is his defense and Shawn Marion-like versatility that makes him so valuable. Hornacek mentioned how the Warriors have much more flexibility with their lineups with Iguodala in tow, so we will see if he can be the boost they need to defeat the Suns for the first time this season.
Who wins Round 2 between the guards?
Round one went to the Suns and their two lethal guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Those two combined for 45 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Bledsoe also contributed eight rebounds and eight assists. The Warriors’ duo of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are considered by many to be one of the top guard combinations in the league, but were outplayed by Bledsoe and Dragic in Phoenix despite the Suns backcourt scoring four combined points less. Curry and Thompson can get on a roll at home, and it will be imperative that the Suns do not let them get the home crowd into it early.
Which team can shoot better from deep?
This stat was close to a draw in game one with the Warriors going 11-22 and the Suns going 13-27. These teams rank in the top-8 of three pointers made, attempted and accuracy in the league. The Suns will need the recent hot hands of Channing Frye and Gerald Green to remain going Friday night if they want to keep up with Splash Bro’s and Co.