The Daily Sweat: Suns and Warriors meet for first place in Western Conference

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If the Golden State Warriors want to return to the top of the Western Conference, one of the teams they will have to go through is the Phoenix Suns.

While the Warriors dealt with roster turnover and injuries and largely faded into the background in recent years, the Suns were the surprise Western Conference champions last season. They cruised through the postseason with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton leading the way, only to fall to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.

Despite the Finals disappointment, that strong play from the Suns has carried over into the new season. Through 20 games, the Suns have a stellar 17-3 record and are currently in the midst of a 16-game winning streak that dates back to Oct. 27.

There’s only one team in the NBA with a better record: the 18-2 Warriors. The Warriors have a winning streak of their own, now up to seven.

But one of those streaks will come to an end Tuesday night when the Suns host the Warriors in Phoenix. The home Suns are the current favorites at BetMGM with the point spread currently listed at -1.5 and the total sitting at 222.5.

The Warriors have been the best ATS team in the NBA this year, going 15-4-1 against the number thus far. The Warriors have been underdogs just twice this season. They’ve won and covered the spread both times. Phoenix, meanwhile, is 11-9 ATS in 2021. The Suns have covered in just three of their last eight games, though one of them was on Saturday night as a 1.5-point road underdog in a 113-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

This is about as big as it gets when it comes to regular season NBA games in the first half of the season. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) smiles during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) smiles during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

What else is on the slate for Tuesday?

There are four other NBA games on the card and the city rivalry between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets is the most intriguing. It’s the first time the two have met this season and the Nets are currently 6.5-point favorites at Barclays Center.

The Nets are in first place in the Eastern Conference at 14-6 overall. The Knicks have an 11-9 record and coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday that he’s taking four-time All-Star Kemba Walker out of the team’s starting lineup and rotation altogether in favor of Alec Burks, who scored 23 points in Saturday’s win in Atlanta. Will that change spark an upset win over the Nets?

The three other NBA games are Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors (-4.5), Detroit Pistons vs. Portland Trail Blazers (-9.5) and Los Angeles Lakers (-5.5) vs. Sacramento Kings.

Fun college basketball matchups

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge began this week, bringing some really fun college basketball matchups. The headliners for Tuesday are No. 1 Duke traveling to Ohio State and No. 2 Purdue hosting Florida State.

Duke is coming off a big win over Gonzaga but is just a 2.5-point favorite in Columbus. Purdue, meanwhile, is an 11.5-point favorite over Florida State, a team that has won four straight.

From a name brand perspective, the other game that could attract bettors is Indiana’s trip to Syracuse. Indiana is off to a 6-0 start in its first season under Mike Woodson while Syracuse is just 3-3 on the year. That slow start includes losses to Colgate and VCU, plus a 21-point defeat to Auburn on Friday. In the Orange’s matchup with Indiana, the Hoosiers are 3.5-point favorites on the road.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to forward Paolo Banchero during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to forward Paolo Banchero during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt)

What about the NHL?

If you’re more of a hockey person, there are eight games on the card Tuesday night. The most intriguing matchups are probably the Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers (-145) and Tampa Bay Lightning vs. St. Louis Blues (-110).

The Caps are in first in the Metro division while the Panthers are just two points back of Toronto in the Atlantic. The Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions while the Blues are looking to get back there after winning their first Cup in 2019.

What's the best bet?

I understand the talent Purdue has on its roster, but I feel like laying 11.5 against a well-coached team like Florida State is asking a lot. I'll take Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles getting all of those points. FSU had a shaky performance in its last outing and has had almost a week off to get right for Purdue. I'll take FSU +11.5.

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