The Phoenix Suns will look for a fourth consecutive win on Tuesday when they complete a pair of back-to-back games as the sputtering Washington Wizards visit.
Phoenix blasted the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 130-104 on Monday behind a season-high 28 points from Chris Paul. The Suns posted a 12th straight head-to-head victory over the Lakers, who played without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Deandre Ayton gave Phoenix 21 points and 11 rebounds, his third double-double with at least 21 points in his past four games. Monday marked Ayton’s return to the lineup from an ankle injury that sidelined him the previous two contests.
“My ankle is good,” Ayton said following the win. “I tried my best to stay on top of (rehabilitation).”
Ayton’s play on the interior worked in conjunction with Phoenix’s red-hot shooting performance from the outside. The Suns knocked down 20 of 39 3-point attempts in the win despite playing without leading scorer Devin Booker.
Booker, who scored 58 points on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, has missed three of the team’s past five games due to a groin injury. His status for the Tuesday contest was uncertain.
Phoenix also lost Josh Okogie in the second half on Monday due to right hip soreness.
The Suns have faced some recent roster reshuffling as a result of injuries, but they have settled into a groove all the same.
Since dropping five straight from Dec. 5-13, a stretch during which it averaged 109.4 points per game, Phoenix has averaged 119.7 points over its past three.
Asked about the keys to the turnaround, Suns coach Monty Williams said, “The freedom to do the things that you work on, the mentality and encouragement from teammates and hopefully a little bit of the system that allows for guys to be their best. That’s how we have to play.”
As Phoenix looks to build on its recent success, Washington arrives desperate to pull out of a lengthy tailspin.
The Wizards dropped their 10th consecutive decision and 13th in the past 14 games on Sunday, falling 119-117 to the Lakers. The defeat was the second in a Los Angeles weekend back-to-back, following a 102-93 loss to the Clippers on Saturday.
Washington has yet to win in the month of December, its last victory coming on Nov. 28 by a 142-127 count against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It’s not easy to win this league. It’s not easy to get yourself out of the slumps,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said following the Sunday loss. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to just go out, believe in ourselves and stick together and continue to realize we can turn it around. But we’ve just got to believe we can do it.”
Beal scored 29 points against the Lakers, his first game since Dec. 4. He had missed six contests due to a hamstring ailment. Kristaps Porzingis added 21 points for his 10th game of 20-plus points in his past 11 appearances, and he grabbed 11 rebounds.
Porzingis shared the floor with fellow post player Daniel Gafford for stretches on Sunday, a combination that Beal praised for giving Washington a defensive boost.
Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr.’s continued use of the two together could be a plotline in Phoenix, the fourth opponent of Washington’s current six-game Western Conference road swing.
The Suns rank seventh in the NBA in both points scored per game and points allowed per game. The Wizards are 25th in points scored, 16th in points yielded.
–Field Level Media