- Spread: Warriors -15.5
Monday’s NBA slate brings us 6 games, the last of which features the teams currently bookending the Pacific Division. The Warriors, who lead the Western Conference with a record of 43-13 on the season, will host the Suns, who are in the basement of the division with a lowly 18-39 mark.
The Warriors have been playing arguably their worst basketball of the season, but they have picked up back-to-back wins over a pair of Texas teams in the Mavericks and Spurs. The win over San Antonio was particularly encouraging, a 122-105 thrashing in Oakland on Saturday night. The Spurs are obviously seriously short-handed, but that was the kind of victory the Warriors needed in order to get back on track.
Golden State has uncharacteristically had to deal with some injuries this season, and that includes tonight, as All-Star Draymond Green is considered doubtful to play due to a sprained finger. With rookie Jordan Bell already sidelined, that should open up a bunch of minutes for ex-UCLA standout Kevon Looney, who has shown some signs so far this season. Looney has been on the fringes of the team’s rotation all season, but when given the chance to play he has generally performed well enough.
Of course, even without Green healthy, the Warriors boast 3 more All-Stars in Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Curry and KD both struggled to assert themselves from a scoring perspective on Saturday night, but Thompson was there to pick up the slack. Thompson poured in a game-high 25 points on an uber-efficient 10-14 effort from the field, including 5-6 from beyond the 3-point line.
The Warriors seem to have gone into cruise control, but they can’t afford to let off the gas pedal. They enter tonight’s game just a half-game up on the surging Houston Rockets for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Warriors may not think that having home court advantage throughout the playoffs can stop them, but you never know. Earning home court should be the Dubs’ sole focus from here on out, so they shouldn’t be taking any game lightly, including what appears to be a cakewalk tonight against Phoenix.
The Suns have dropped 5 consecutive games and find themselves in a dogfight for the worst record in the NBA. Entering tonight’s action, the Suns find themselves in a 4-way tie with the Kings, Hawks and Mavericks for the worst record in the league. One would imagine Phoenix wants to get the best pick possible in the upcoming draft, so winning games over the season’s last couple of months is unlikely to be of high importance.
While a loss is a loss, the Suns did show some character in their 123-113 defeat against the Nuggets in their last game. Despite playing without Devin Booker and Tyson Chandler, the Suns managed to keep the game competitive throughout, thanks in large part to a very strong effort from Elfrid Payton. Payton, who was making his team debut after coming over in a deadline deal from Orlando, finished with 19 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds in 35 minutes. TJ Warren also led the team with 31 points.
Booker is questionable to play again tonight with his hip issue, while Chandler is expected to return. Tyler Ulis is also questionable. If both Booker and Ulis sit, then Payton would appear to be on track for another 35 minutes in this one. Phoenix is incredibly thin in the backcourt as it is, and they need to see what Payton can do before he hits free agency this summer.
15 ½ points is one of the heftier spreads you’ll see in the NBA, but it’s hard not to justify it tonight given the massive talent discrepancy between the teams. If Booker is a no-go once again, then this one could end up in 30-point blowout territory. The Suns are still likely to lose if he plays, but his return would significantly increase their chances of making it a game.
Still, it’s tough to see how this Suns team can keep this one within arm’s reach. Even if it’s close in the early stages, the Warriors have a way of ramping things up after halftime and running away from their opponents. Take Golden State to cover that massive 15.5-point spread tonight.