Either the Golden State Warriors or the Phoenix Suns will suffer their first loss of the NBA Summer League on Monday night, while the other will celebrate a championship.
Both teams have been spectacular throughout each of their six games to this point, as no franchise has been able to crack the code on how to beat them yet. Teams didn’t have to go undefeated to make it to the championship game, since all of them made the tournament; it's just icing on the cake for each finalist.
The Summer League is all about the young players who are hoping to develop into NBA stars. There’s a wide variety of experience and talent, but many have turned heads and should earn jobs and significant roles in the upcoming season with their respective organizations.
So who’s going to win the inaugural championship?
Here’s a complete preview for tonight’s matchup between the Warriors and Suns.
Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
When: 9 p.m. ET
TV Coverage: NBA TV
Live Stream: NBA Summer League Live
How They Got There
The Warriors earned the top seed in the tournament after winning the first three games of the Las Vegas Summer League. Golden State squeaked out a four-point win over Washington and then defeated Sacramento and Milwaukee by double digits. Despite being the No. 1 team, the Warriors were nearly ousted in the second round.
The team had a first-round bye, and the Mavericks took the floor with something to prove. Dallas came up just a few points shy of taking out the Warriors, as Golden State advanced with a 79-76 victory. The Warriors' next two games were close as well, but they managed defeat the Lakers by six points and the Bobcats by eight.
Phoenix has had its fair share of close calls as well, but it still enters the championship game with a perfect record. The Suns took down the Blazers by 13 to start their Summer League campaign and then just barely won against the Timberwolves (91-89). A 12-point win over the Grizzlies earned them the No. 3 seed in the bracket.
The Suns took down the Blazers for the second time in less than a week in the second round of the tournament and defeated the Raptors by five points in the quarterfinals. With a chance to play for the title on the line, Phoenix escaped with a two-point win over the Heat, who were the No. 18 seed entering the tournament.
Player to Watch: Kent Bazemore, G, Golden State Warriors
Kent Bazemore didn’t play a large role with the Warriors last season, his first in the NBA. He did play in 61 regular season games, but he averaged only about four minutes of floor time each night. He played in a handful of postseason games as well but wasn’t on the court for significant moments.
This summer, Bazemore has shown Golden State—and the rest of the NBA—that he’s ready to make an impact for the Warriors each game. While he’s played just six Summer League games, he’s averaged 18.5 points and 4.7 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 44 percent from the floor.
This kid knows how to make big plays.
The Suns are going to have a difficult time keeping Bazemore under control. He’s scored in double figures in all six games and hasn’t had many poor shooting nights. He was 4-of-12 from the field on Sunday against Charlotte, so it’s advised that Phoenix try to put similar pressure on the Old Dominion product.
Bazemore appears ready, though, per his Twitter account:
One more... #DubNation— Kent Bazemore (@KentBazemore20) July 22, 2013
Comparison and Prediction
The most obvious question entering Monday night is: How in the world is the Golden State defense going to stop the red-hot Phoenix offense?
The Suns have five different players averaging double figures. As a team, they're shooting 49 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from downtown. That’s unreal.
In comparison, Golden State has only three players averaging 10 or more points per game. The team is shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 25.5 percent from three-point territory.
The Warriors have one heck of a test in front of them. They’re going to need to play their “A game” in order to win the title.
The Suns just have to come out shooting and make sure that Bazemore doesn’t do too much damage, and Phoenix should have the championship in the bag. Expect to see Phoenix win the title by a wide margin after a monster performance from Markieff Morris, who enters the game averaging 14.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per night.
Prediction: Phoenix 91, Golden State 77
*All statistics in this article were obtained via NBA.com unless otherwise noted and are current through July 21.