at PHOENIX SUNS
Tip-off: Monday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: NA, Total: NA
The Nets look to rebound against the Suns on Monday after surrendering a big lead to Phoenix just day earlier.
In a matchup of two young, rebuilding teams on Tuesday night, the Brooklyn Nets appeared to have gotten the better of the Phoenix Suns at home when they took an 18-point lead in the third quarter. The Suns erased the lead before the quarter was even over, though, and thoroughly outplayed the Nets in the fourth quarter to come away with a 122-114 win on the road. It was a tough loss for Brooklyn, their third straight after a triumphant win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers just days earlier. And it was an especially triumphant win for the Suns, their third in four games after starting the season 0-3 and seeing head coach Earl Watson fired. Brooklyn doesn't have to wait long for a shot at revenge, though, as they head to Phoenix for a rematch on Monday night. PG Eric Bledsoe remains off the court and on the trade block for the Suns, and the team knows that any day could bring his official departure and an influx of new talent (or draft picks).
The Nets will have to hope that their new point guard D'Angelo Russell isn't too mentally drained on Sunday, as he's likely spent all summer focusing on the preceding game: A Friday night showdown with the team that traded him, the Los Angeles Lakers. With two days off in between, though, it's not a huge concern. Largely, he's been the player people expected to see in his third season: A scoring point guard that is also a creative enough passer to make plays in the halfcourt. He scored 33 points on 21 shots in the first go-round against Phoenix, but had a game-worst +/- of -22 on the evening. Even without PG Jeremy Lin, who was lost early in the year to a season-ending injury, the overall talent is significantly higher in Brooklyn than it has been the past couple year. That includes SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who, like, Russell, is in his third year in the league and has taken a significant step forward in scoring. He had 21 against the Suns on Tuesday. PG Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 points off the bench. Second-year SG Caris LeVert and trade acquisition SG Allen Crabbe provide further talent at the wing, although Crabbe had a dismal 2-of-10 shooting performance in the loss to Phoenix. C Timofey Mozgov and SF DeMarre Carroll, also new to town this season, round out the starting lineup alongside Russell, Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert.
Fans of the NBA are keeping a close eye on the development of third-year Suns SG Devin Booker, who is still remarkably young—he turned 21 on October 30th. On an incredibly young team last year, he assumed a hefty usage load for the Suns, and while it's good that he's gotten so much experience, one wonders if he might be developing bad habits that can often be seen in volume scorers on bad teams. Early on this year, though, it looks like he has taken another step forward. Through eight games this season, he was averaging 22.1 PPG, his exact same scoring total from 2016-17. The difference? His PER through eight games sits at 20.0, while his 2016-17 PER was an unimpressive 14.6. Time will tell if this performance holds up, but interim head coach Jay Triano appears to have him doing all the right things. He had 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting against Brooklyn on Tuesday, adding seven rebounds and four assists. PG Mike James, who has somehow found himself in an NBA starting lineup after a career as a journeyman, scored 24, and SF T.J. Warren scored 20. The next night, in a 122-116 road win over an excellent Washington team, Warren dropped a staggering 40 points and 10 rebounds. He had 27 a week earlier against Utah. He's also had three single-digit scoring games so far this season, though, so the fourth-year player needs to figure out how to bring it on a nightly basis. Despite only scoring two points against Brooklyn, C Tyson Chandler had a game-best +/- of +26 thanks to his 13 rebounds and stiff interior defense.