Time: 6 p.m. MST
TV: FSAZ and NBATV
Fresh off their longest hiatus since the All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns return to the hardwood Sunday night looking to build off Thursday night’s 128-122 statement victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. To do so, won’t be all that easy for Phoenix, though.
On one hand, Jeff Hornacek’s squad will be forced to return to the site of its ugliest loss of the season — 115-86 back on Dec. 27. And on the other hand, the Golden State Warriors have been playing excellent basketball of late, going 7-2 since Feb. 10.
But avenging an early-season loss won’t be at the top of agenda, however. Sunday night’s Pacific Division clash is about one thing: playoff positioning. Golden State currently holds the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference with Phoenix just two games behind in the No. 7 spot.
Here’s a look at three questions that could play a major role in Sunday’s outcome:
Eric Bledsoe is ready, but are the Suns?
All signs point to the Suns reintegrating Eric Bledsoe back into their lineup in the coming days after a 30-plus game hiatus, and Bledsoe spoke to AZCentral’s Paul Coro and Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Craig Grialou exclusively Saturday essentially revealing that he’s ready to return to action.
While the expectation is that Bledsoe’s return date will be Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, how the Suns react in their next two contests will be interesting to say the least. With his days likely numbered as a starter, how does Gerald Green react? Will he come out Sunday night and be the dynamic player who posted 74 combined points in wins against the Atlanta Hawks and Thunder earlier in the week or will he be the streaky shooter who went a combined 10-of-32 against the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans?
And along those same lines, how much does Hornacek continue to play Ish Smith and Goran Dragic side-by-side, primarily with the latter playing off the ball?
Preparation is the key to seamless integration, and while no one truly knows what life will be like with Bledsoe back in the fold, how the Suns handle the next few days before he returns — especially against quality conference opponents — will be awfully intriguing.
Can the Suns hold Stephen Curry under 16 assists?
That number seems absurd when considering the All-Star point guard has only recorded that total once in 2013-14, however that one time was part of a triple-double performance in December’s shellacking of the Suns. In Phoenix’s two home victories over Golden State this season, it has kept Curry to a combined 16 assists.
Curry has compiled 21 double-digit assist games this season, and it seems to be a pretty decent indicator of team success or at the very least how efficient the Warriors’ offense is flowing. Of those 21 games, Golden State has a record of 15-6.
Will Miles Plumlee give it a go, and if so how effective will he be?
Plumlee has sat out the last two games do to a sprained right knee, but even before the injury his production had been lacking to say the least.
With that said, the second-year center’s best performance of late came in the 122-109 home win over the Warriors back on Feb. 8. In fact, it marks the only night since Jan. 27 that he’s reached double figures in scoring. Even in limited minutes (18) during the aforementioned drubbing, Plumlee put up his typical nine points and seven rebounds, while holding Andrew Bogut primarily in check (eight points and six rebounds).
Bogut has also been dealing with some pain in his own knee after tweaking it Tuesday, so it would be nice if the Suns could counter will some depth at the five outside of Alex Len and Shavlik Randolph, who have been thrust into action given Plumlee’s recent absence.