The Phoenix Suns look to continue their strong play on the road Monday night against the Washington Wizards.
The game features an intriguing backcourt matchup of former trade partners Chris Paul of the Suns and Russell Westbrook of the Wizards, as well as a potential head-to-head between two of the top scorers in the league with Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Washington’s Bradley Beal.
Points have come in bushels when the clubs have met the past two seasons, with the Wizards winning three of four. Washington averaged 131.3 points in those games, Phoenix 131.0.
Those matchups included a 125-112 Suns win in the bubble last July, a game in which Booker went for 27 points while Beal sat out with a shoulder injury.
The two dueled in Phoenix before the pandemic-prompted hiatus, with Beal outscoring his rival 35-27 in a 140-132 triumph in November 2019.
Since they last met, each team bolstered its backcourt with a veteran addition, with the Suns adding Paul and the Wizards getting Westbrook.
Paul has been a driving force in Phoenix’s surprising 7-3 start (4-2 on the road). He had a 15-point, 10-assist double-double in Saturday’s 125-117 win at Indiana.
The double-digit assist total was Paul’s third of the season. When coupled with four other efforts of eight or more, he has positioned himself near the top of the league leaders with an 8.5 average.
Mikal Bridges had 34 points and Cameron Johnson contributed 16 off the bench in the win over the Pacers, but Suns coach Monty Williams acknowledged afterward they couldn’t have done it without the presence of Booker (25 points) and Paul.
“Those two guys facilitate so much offense for us,” Williams said. “They see the game the same. They can score, but they see their partners out there and they take advantage of the opportunities. We had 33 assists, only three turnovers, I think in part because those two had the ball most of the game initiating offense.”
The Wizards have lost three straight in what already has become a record-setting season.
They tied an NBA record when they combined with Miami for 91 first-quarter points in the Heat’s 128-124 win on Saturday. That occurred three days after the Wizards combined with Philadelphia to break the record for combined second-quarter points with 92 in the 76ers’ 141-136 victory.
The Wizards sat out both Beal and Westbrook on the second night of a back-to-back in Miami, one because they had no choice.
Beal had gone for 41 points the night before in a loss at Boston, a game in which he was deemed to have come in close contact with the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. When the Boston star tested positive for coronavirus after the game, Beal went into COVID protocol, keeping him out of the Miami game. The Wizards listed him as “available” on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Westbrook was rested against the Heat. He put up a 20-point, 12-assist double-double in the Philadelphia game, numbers that were even more impressive considering the fact that he suffered a dislocated finger in the game.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks noted he has bigger issues than his dependable veteran’s health.
“Russell’s good,” he assured. “He’s as tough a player as I’ve ever been around.”
Westbrook and Paul were involved in the same trade in July of 2019, when Westbrook was dealt from Oklahoma City to Houston for Paul, two first-round picks and the right to swap first-rounders in two other seasons.
–Field Level Media