Game centers

Christmas Day Game Preview: Warriors Frustrated As Suns Live Their Dream

What: Golden State Warriors (26-6) at Phoenix Suns (26-5)

When: 3:00 p.m. AZ time **THE DAY OF CHRISTMAS**

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: ABC/Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

Odds: DraftKings


Merry Christmas to everyone!

Your gift from the NBA is to watch the two best teams in the NBA go head-to-head on national television! The league-leading Suns and Warriors have THE showpiece game for Christmas Day basketball and game time is just at the right time.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Suns forward Cameron Johnson said this week. “Playing at Christmas, going out, and I’m just super excited for it.”

Do you like shooting? Stephen Curry has no equal. The Suns and Warriors overall have two of the most effective offenses in the league, ranking in the top 4 in all advanced shooting categories.

Do you like MVPs? Two MVP candidates face off, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.

Do you like defense? The Suns and Warriors have the two best defenses in the league!

Do you hate blowouts? These teams have been battling each other this season, so it should be a close and hard-fought game. The winner receives an additional gift for Christmas.

Let’s get it!


Likely starters

Health Update

The Warriors have been mixing and matching lately, due to injuries and COVID protocols. Starters Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole have been in the protocols and likely won’t be erased by game time. They inserted Damion Lee (also in COVID protocols now) and Jonathan Kuminga into the starting lineup in their place. Also, backup Andre Iguodala is day-to-day with knee pain/management, while Klay Thompson and James Wiseman have yet to play at all this season and won’t be playing over Christmas.

The Suns have regained their health recentlyafter losing at least one of their top two scorers (Booker/Ayton) in 13 of 31 games so far this year. The only players out at the moment have been out for some time: Abdel Nader, Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric, all with knee problems.


Warrior Notes

Golden State has been dealing with some COVID issues recently, losing three wings (Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and Damion Lee to protocols). And they’re still missing All-Star Klay Thompson, who hasn’t played since 2019.

Before you feel too bad for the Warriors, read the Suns Notes section on injuries and absences.

On Thursday night, the Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies with a 7-0 streak in the final minutes – including a huge corner three from Gary Payton II – and are just 0.5 games behind the Suns. Payton shoots 46% on three in December.

Stephen Curry is the MVP favorite. Draymond Green could win Defensive Player of the Year and could even make the All-Star team again despite having no scoring skills to speak of.

The Warriors certainly aren’t happy to be on the road this Christmas, though.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr complained: “It’s an honor to play at Christmas – it’s a showcase and everyone is watching – but I think there should be a rule in the NBA that you can’t be on the road two years in a row. That’s clear. Because last year we were in Milwaukee and this year we’ll be in Phoenix, and that doesn’t seem fair.

Two years ago, the Warriors were coming off a run in the Finals but faced a down year with Klay Thompson injured and Kevin Durant on the run for Brooklyn. Last year, the Warriors were coming off a season where they had won only 15 games and were always without these two stars when the program was announced.

Kerr then added with a chuckle, “But I’m confident that next year we’ll be home for Christmas. Or we’ll all protest and not show up.

Draymond Green echoed Kerr’s complaints.

“I think it’s legit,” Green said after the game. “I have a 7 year old, a 5 year old and a 1 year old. I also want to spend time at home with my children. We are not playing against a defending champion. If we’re playing against a defending champion, you understand, but we’re not. And it’s a little frustrating to have to go back on the road for a second year in a row. So now I miss my daughter’s first Christmas, and I will miss her second. It’s a bit fucked up. But that’s the reality. This is what we are up against.

Stephen Curry also weighed in.

“I like it because it means you’re one of the star teams,” Curry said of the Christmas game. “There are 10 teams playing, so you know [the NBA] is very selective about who they put in those slots. … But it’s weird – especially on the road, I have three kids and how special a day and weekend is, so you try to balance being there with them and doing work and playing a game and stay focused on that.

“I think we played nine consecutive years at Christmas. It means you’re doing something right, so you kind of have to take the good with the bad.

—Warrior Quotes via Nick Friedell, ESPN


Notes of the suns

The Suns, meanwhile, are excited to return to the big stage on Christmas Day. It’s the first time the Suns have played over Christmas since 2009 – when Cam and teammate Deandre Ayton were barely in college.

“I feel like I should be thanking the NBA for giving me the Christmas present of playing on Christmas Day,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said of the game. He said a lot of guys were training, getting ready for the next game, but “I have kids who wake up to go see Deandre and the Phoenix Suns play. It’s an honor. You cannot take this for granted. Stuff like that is just hard work. People recognize us, win and stuff like that, and that’s the reward. We just have to be grateful and not take it for granted at all.

After a Finals with the league’s second-best regular season record and the same team returning for a repeat, scheduling the Suns for a home game was a no-brainer for the league.

And they rewarded the league with having the best record in the NBA this season.

The Suns are mostly healthy now, having missed one or both of their top two scorers in 13 of their first 28 games, though they’re still lacking quality bench rotation guys in Dario. Saric, Frank Kaminsky and even Abdel Nader.

In fact, according to a tweet from Matt Moore/HP Basketball/Action Network, the Suns have “lost” 8th vorp (value to replacement player) and are gaining share primarily because of Booker and Ayton’s missed games so far. to December 20.

The Suns ‘lost’ the 8th-most in both metrics, taking into account vorp’s per-game values ​​and win shares in games lost by Ayton, Booker, Saric, Kaminsky, Nader and even Cameron Payne earlier in the year for two weeks.

Fortunately for the Suns, they have weathered the losses and still have the best record in the league. That doesn’t mean the Suns could have won MORE games with Booker and Ayton healthy all the time, since the Suns were 11-2 in those games and 26-5 overall. Just that their probability of winning those matches was lower than it could have been. Fortunately, Suns general manager James Jones had ready-made replacements, with Frank Kaminsky, JaVale McGee, Landry Shamet and Cameron Johnson taking on bigger roles when needed, and head coach Monty Williams knew how. deploy them.


Big Matchup – Curry’s offense against Bridges’ defense

Obviously, the key to the game will be Mikal Bridges (and the entire Suns team) on Stephen Curry. In their first two meetings, Curry barely managed a shot when defended by Bridges. The Suns will need Bridges to avoid foul issues (expect the Warriors to make plenty of early moves to force Bridges into contact) and stick with Curry throughout the game.

If the Suns can contain Curry without sacrificing too much of their defense on the rest of the Warriors, the Suns should be able to win this game.


Prediction

I just want a playoff-level atmosphere with two teams that really, really want to win.

“When you’re playing against the elite teams in the league, it’s not enough just to play,” Suns goaltender Chris Paul said of the game. “You have to be much more cerebral. Playing against Golden State, they always make you think, playing against the Lakers, Milwaukee, all those good teams, they’re going to make you think about the game, so it’s always a good test for us because every team is different.

Draymond Green will be ready for the game, despite his disappointment at missing his family over Christmas.

“I think the intensity of a Christmas Day game is always higher because it’s a big game,” Green said. “As you know everyone at home is watching. Everyone is home, number one. Nothing is open on Christmas Day. Everyone is with their families sitting at home watching TV, so you know this is one of the biggest regular season games of the year. And because of that, the intensity will increase even further. And you have to step up and do this challenge, and it will be a tough challenge to take on a good Phoenix team in their building to get the win. But that is the task we face, and I expect us to do it.


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