The Phoenix Suns strive to avoid their first three-game skid of the season when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
The Suns have the second-best record in the NBA but are coming off losses to the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.
The loss to Memphis came on a driving hoop by Grizzlies star Ja Morant with 0.5 seconds left. Devin Booker drained a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds remaining to put Phoenix up by one prior to the game-ending sequence.
Booker scored exactly 30 points for the second time in three games. He has tallied at least 30 on seven occasions this season, while averaging a team-best 23.1 points per game.
In addition, the 25-year-old Booker is four points away from reaching 10,000 for his career.
Big man Deandre Ayton and forward Jae Crowder missed the game against Memphis due to COVID-19 protocols. It is unclear if either has a chance to be cleared on Wednesday.
The Thunder had six players in the protocol for Tuesday’s 117-111 road loss to the Sacramento Kings. The missing included backcourt performers Josh Giddey and Tre Mann and big man Derrick Favors.
Also, the head coaches of both teams — Phoenix’s Monty Williams and Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault — are in the protocol and aren’t expected to be on the bench on Wednesday.
Kevin Young will again lead the Suns and Mike Wilks is in charge of the Thunder.
“At the beginning of the season, even last season, Coach Mont always said we’ve got to fight through the unexpected,” Suns backup point guard Cameron Payne said after the loss to the Grizzlies. “Never know what’s going to happen. Honestly, that’s why we build our culture because if someone goes out, someone else steps up.”
Young, 40, will look to guide the Suns to a win in his second chance. The second-year assistant with Phoenix indicated that Williams has been a big believer in him.
“(Williams has) been great with me as far as having confidence in me, but again, it’s really not about me, per se,” Young said after the Memphis game. “It’s about our guys, and I’ll just try to steer them the best I can.”
Suns point guard Chris Paul is highly familiar with Wilks from the one season (2019-20) he spent in the Oklahoma City organization.
“That’s unfortunate for Mark and I hope he gets well,” said Paul, “but honestly, I’m happy for Wilks.”
Things didn’t go so great for Wilks on Tuesday as the Thunder trailed by as many as 17 points in the loss to the Kings.
But still, the 42-year-old, who is in his third season as an Oklahoma City assistant, was pinching himself that he was running an NBA team.
“It doesn’t feel real, to be honest. It’s kinda surreal to me,” Wilks said afterward. “I have a lot of family and friends here who were here to support me. Still feel like I’m dreaming kind of. I had a lot of fun. Just proud of our guys.”
Rookie Aaron Wiggins said the last two days have been chaotic for the Thunder.
“It’s been a mess. COVID is tricky,” Wiggins said after Tuesday’s loss. “There’s a lot that can come with it. Our guys are ready when their name is called. … It’s a next-man-up mentality. We trust one another.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points to pace the Thunder against the Kings. Gilgeous-Alexander has put together back-to-back 30-point efforts and is averaging 28.6 points over the last five outings.
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 29 points against the Suns on Dec. 23 when Oklahoma City also played in Phoenix and fell 113-101. Booker had 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Suns.
–Field Level Media