Time: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Where to watch: TNT
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Suns -10.5
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Pelicans - Suns preview and analysis
Pelicans: lost three straight, lost 123-117 vs. Knicks on Saturday
Suns: lost two of three, won 101-92 vs. Cavaliers on Saturday
The level of disappointment from the TNT execs knowing this could be a lackluster game between the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday could not be higher.
The gravity of Zion Williamson shouldn’t hold this much merit, but it does. It also doesn’t help that the Suns are off to a slow 2-3 start coming off the surprising run to the NBA Finals last season.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, are 1-6 without their superstar big man despite a roster that should be much better than it is. Brandon Ingram continues to be a scoring machine, averaging 25 points per game. Even center Jonas Valanciunas is having a career year of almost 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Defense, however, remains a problem and that’s where Williamson would help New Orleans. The Pels are coming off a 123-117 loss to the New York Knicks at Smoothie King Center where RJ Barrett of all people went off for a career-high 35 points -- not even mentioning the fact he shot 12 of 18 and hit six threes -- in the loss.
Valanciunas had 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead New Orleans, but the Knicks as a whole shot 51 percent from the floor and went 19 of 33 from 3-point range.
"We're learning from every single game. I still feel in my heart that we're getting better and things will turn around," Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said. "We're right there. We're fighting. We're knocking on the door."
That door will be kicked down when Williamson, who’s expected to miss another two to three weeks with a foot injury, makes his season debut. This team is right there thanks to the ascension of Ingram to all-star status a year ago. A healthy Williamson is going to make the difference.
But whether or not the Pelicans’ phenom is in the lineup or not, this is going to be an entertaining frontcourt battle between Valanciunas and Deandre Ayton, who is currently battling for that new contract -- whether it be from the Suns or another team next season -- as he’s averaging 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds to start the season.
Phoenix is coming off a nine-point win at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday that saw Cleveland hang around because the Suns could not hit a shot. They went 6 of 26 from 3-point range, and despite Devin Booker scoring a game-high 27 points, he missed all four attempts from deep.
"It was just getting out, picking up the pace a little bit," Booker said. "Just playing basketball."
Offense will never be a question for the Suns as the season rolls on. The shots will fall for Booker, and Chris Paul will score more than nearly 13 points per game. But the arrival of Mikal Bridges as a lethal two-way player has finally made its way to the basketball pantheon. The athletic forward is averaging 15.2 points to go with 4.4 rebounds and nearly a block and steal per game.
Watch him to be on Ingram all game long.
I really want to be excited for this matchup but it’s difficult to be. It almost feels like a dominant Suns win is in order unless Ingram goes off. This feels like a perfect time for Ayton to have his welcome-to-the-season moment against Valanciunas. Suns by 15
The over is 51-28 for the Pelicans over the past three years following consecutive overs.
The Pelicans are 10-5 ATS over the past three seasons following a stretch of three straight home games.
The Suns are 9-18 ATS in their last 27 as a home favorite between 6.5 and 12 points.
Projected starting lineup
PG: Devonte Graham
SG: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
SF: Herbert Jones
PF: Brandon Ingram
C: Jonas Valanciunas
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Deandre Ayton
Pelicans: PF Zion Williamson (foot, out)
Suns: PG Cam Payne (hamstring, out), C Deandre Ayton (leg, questionable)
Points: Brandon Ingram -- 25.0
Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas -- 14.6
Assists: Devonte Graham -- 5.1
Blocks: Jonas Valanciunas -- 1.1
Steals: Devonte Graham -- 1.4
Points: Devin Booker -- 22.6
Rebounds: Deandre Ayton -- 11.4
Assists: Chris Paul -- 10.6
Blocks: Mikal Bridges -- 0.8
Steals: Chris Paul -- 2.2
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