The Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards have been on similar paths, with similar results, as they prepare for their Wednesday game, their only meeting in Arizona this season.
Both the Suns and Wizards have lost to Sacramento and Denver in the past nine days, the Suns playing without their full complement of starters and the Wizards in uncharacteristically low-scoring fashion.
Throughout, both have gotten a lot of bang from their unquestioned go-to guys, off guards Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Washington’s Beal is fourth in the league with a 28.5-point scoring average, and Booker is 15th at 24.8.
Beal has scored at least 44 points three times this season. Booker has had one 40-point game this season, and he is one game removed from the closest he has come to a triple-double in his four seasons — 35 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists — in a 100-98 victory at Minnesota on Saturday.
“From the time he has been in Flagstaff (at training camp), he certainly has been a leader and a driver of the culture, and that has helped tremendously,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of Booker.
Booker had a season-low 12 points in a 116-104 loss at Denver on Sunday, and Beal had a season-low 14 while making 2 of 10 3-point attempts in a 117-104 loss at Denver on Tuesday.
Washington will play the second contest of a four-game, six-day road trip in Phoenix and will finish with games in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers this weekend. The Suns will host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday before a four-game trip.
“We’ve got some tough games, probably playing some of the best four teams in the West,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said, “but that’s also fun for us. We got a group that’s going to continue to grow and get better and learn from every experience that we see.”
Booker made league and franchise history the last time the Suns met Washington in Phoenix when he scored 50 points in the Wizards’ 124-121 victory March 27, 2019, the second of his back-to-back 50-point games.
At 22, Booker became the youngest of the 10 NBA players to accomplish that feat. He also had 10 rebounds, joining Amar’e Stoudemire as the only Suns with 50/10 games. Booker has averaged 26 points in seven games against Washington, his fourth-highest figure against any opponent.
Beal, who had 28 points when Booker had 50, is averaging 24.1 points in 12 games against the Suns, his highest against any opponent.
The Suns have played the past four games without center Aron Baynes (hip) and the past 4 1/2 without Ricky Rubio (back spasms), although Rubio appears likely to play Wednesday.
Phoenix second-year point guard Elie Okobo and center Cheick Diallo played well off the bench in Denver. Okobo had 16 points, four assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes. Diallo had a career-high 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting and six rebounds while playing 36 minutes in relief of Frank Kaminsky, who made his fourth straight start for Baynes.
“I was leaving the gym around 5 (last week), and Elie was coming in to get shots,” Williams said. “That speaks to how he wants to get better as a player. And Cheick is the same way. We say you have to stay ready, you never know when you are going to get your shot.”
Diallo, in his fourth season and first with the Suns, had 31 points in about 62 minutes in 10 previous games this season. He has been on the floor more recently with Deandre Ayton out due to a suspension and Baynes absent.
–Field Level Media