Game Preview: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers blowing smoke as usual - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns start the first leg of an away/home back-to-back against a Los Angeles Clippers squad that is hellbent on proving they belong in the upper echelon of teams in the Western Conference. The way the Suns have been playing recently, there's a pretty good chance they will help the Clippers get bent.

When: Saturday, December 8, 2012, 1:30 PM local time (3:30 EST)

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR


Last Meeting:

First meeting this season. The teams last played April 19, 2012 with Phoenix winning at home 93-90. Jared Dudley led the way with 18 points (including 4-7 from three) and Marcin Gortat had a double-double with 14/14. I can't quite remember, but it seems like there might have been a notable altercation between Dudley and Blake Griffin. It was the Suns last victory of the 2011-12 season, which put them at 33-30, before they lost their last three games.

Team Bios:

LA Clippers: 12-6

Points per game: 101.5 (6th) Points allowed: 94.9 (9th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (4th) Defensive Efficiency: 99.2 (7th)

The Clippers come into the game riding a four game win streak, the last of which was a 22 point blowout of the same Dallas Mavericks team that just beat the Suns on Thursday night. Strangely enough, the Clippers had dropped four straight prior to the current win streak. LA is 8-3 at home this season, but has lost games at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets.

The Clippers are a well-rounded team that is near the top of the league on both offense and defense. In addition to the impressive numbers above, LA shoots 48.0% from the field (3rd), averages 22.4 assists per game (8th), and limits opponents to 43.5% shooting (9th). One of the Clippers only areas of weakness is rebounding, where they rank only 24th in the league.

The Clippers are led by the inimitable Chris Paul (16.1 ppg, 9.5 apg, 2.7 spg) and that dude that got punked by Jared Dudley (17.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg). Paul's totals in assists and steals are good for second and first in the league, respectively. Surprisingly, Jamal Crawford, who comes off the bench, leads the team in scoring with 17.8 ppg.

Despite moderate recent success, they are still the Clippers... which still makes me warm and fuzzy inside about being a Suns fan.


Phoenix Suns: 7-13

Points per game: 98.2 (14th) Points allowed: 102.7 (30th)

Offensive Efficiency: 100.8 (17th) Defensive Efficiency: 106.2 (28th)

The Phoenix Suns are pathetic wretches.

That's not to say the team has a terminal illness and can't shed their opprobrious title, but the stark reality is that right now this is not a good basketball team. After a loss on "satisfaction guaranteed night" (also known as look at as employing an embarrassing bush league promotional tactic), the Suns travel to LA for a quick stint against the formidable Clippers. Remember when the Suns use to be good and the Clippers sucked? Yeah, that was fun.

Despite the underwhelming nature of the season to date, the Suns have received a solid contribution from.... Pretty much nobody.

Quick notes:

The Suns are 2-9 on the road. Only the Sacramento Kings have a worse road winning percentage among teams in the Western Conference.

The Suns 13 losses overall are tied for most in the Western Conference.

The Suns haven't had the high scorer in a game they've played since the beginning of time November 12th (12 games ago).

Over his last 11 games, the amazing disappearing Gortat has averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He has one double-double over that stretch. It's good to see that Gortat seems to have completely checked out and is trashing his trade value while wanting to be traded (somewhat counterintuitive). At least this means that when (yes, when not if) the Suns trade him the likely return is some expired coupons and a tootsie roll.

Michael Beasley (that is all).

The Suns are 30th in points allowed (dead last), 28th in defensive efficiency, 28th in opponent field goal percentage, 30th in opponent three point percentage and 27th in opponent effective field goal percentage.

While the Suns fail epically in any imaginable defensive metric, at least they are first in the league in missed layups during crunch time....


What To Watch For:

Dudley/Griffin: With Grant Hill gone and Tucker out, perhaps Dudley will get some bonding time with his bosom buddy. The last couple weeks have been mostly devoid of basketball with any real entertainment value, so some pyrotechnics in this matchup could increase the jollification factor. It would be nice for someone else besides the Suns to look stultified for a change and Griffin is an easy mark.

Defense: Ha! Not really the defense. I just wrote that because you were probably expecting it. This is about rebounding. The Clippers aren't very good at it. I don't see a path to victory that doesn't include the Suns winning this battle, and if the Suns are unrelenting in this task they should.

Pride: Will this actually kick in at some point? Can the Suns actually play engaged basketball for 48 minutes? That should actually be the team's slogan instead of "All for Orange" - "48 Minutes." Except they never play basketball with palpable desire for that long, so everyone would laugh at the tag with derisive mockery.

Paul/Goran Dragic: Goran has had trouble with smaller, quicker point guards this year, so part of me is cringing at the thought of how this matchup might play out today. If Dragic can win this matchup which he can't, it would go a long way toward a Suns upset.

30: Will this finally be the game a Suns goes berserk? I set the over/under at 27 and took the under. That only gives me six more games before my prediction blows up in my face. Kinda like this season so far...


The Final Word(s):

The Clippers should win this game. Comfortably. They are a much better team and are currently playing much better basketball.

All that aside, for some reason this feels like a game the Suns can win. Maybe just a sense that they're due? The Suns have found ways to lose games recently. I swear to God Gentry is running practice drills where the Suns intentionally miss layups in preparation for late game situations. Eventually the results of these games will countervail the scales of karma. Right?

Then again, a 20+ point humiliating defeat wouldn't surprise me, either.

Oh yeah, also this...

Jared Dudley Punks Blake Griffin (via Ray Anthony)

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