The Phoenix Suns (15-20) are trying to start the second half with a season-saving winning streak while enjoying 9 of the first 11 game at home. Last night, they closed out the tired Timberwolves and tonight they face the 21-12 Clippers coming off a win of their own last night over Sacramento.
The Clippers are carried, as you might guess, by their two All-Stars - Chris Paul (19.6 pts, 8.5 assists) and Blake Griffin (21.4 pts, 11.4 rebs) and boast the second-best new nickname in the NBA: Lob City. Expect Griffin and C DeAndre Jordan to have some highlight finishes tonight of the likes not seen in Suns-land since 2010.
Can the Suns beat the suddenly-mighty Clippers? The odds are against a Suns win for sure. The Clippers have a better road record (9-7) than the Suns' home record (8-9). The Clippers' offense is much more efficient than the Suns' offense, while their defenses are fairly even. Jordan will get some blocks (2.6 per game this season) and the Clips will rebound the ball (4th in the NBA in rebound rate vs. the Suns' 24th), but the Suns should be able to score.
Can they stop the Griffin from dominating? Or Chris Paul? Or will their efforts to stop those two just allow newcomer Kenyon Martin and/or SF Caron Butler or backup PG Mo Williams to have a difference-making game?
This should be a tight game. The difference will be the Suns' energy and Chris Paul's end-game shot-making. If the Suns come out flat, it won't be a pretty game. If the Suns hustle and scrap, then the game will come down to the last shot and the Suns have to stop Chris Paul from breaking their hearts.
Hit the jump for more nuggets on the Clips and Suns.
Some data on the Clippers, thanks to MySynergySports.com...
The Clippers' offense is weighted heavily toward isolation (14.7% of their plays), pick-and-roll ball handler finishes (14%), spot-ups (23.3%) and transition (11.8%). Knowing Chris Paul's game tells me that the Clips use a lot of pick-and-roll to set up their offense, but mostly finishing with a shot by Paul himself or a kick-out to a wing when the defense collapses on the roll. The Blake Griffin posterization effect. This method, while heavy on low-percentage jump shots, is very effective for the Clips to the tune of the 4th-most efficient NBA offense.
Somehow, the Clippers are bad at getting roll man to score efficiently. I'll have to watch what the problem is, because you'd think Griffin would be deadly in that fashion. The roll man only gets the ball 6.2% of the time in the Clipper offense, and scores at a low rate (only 15th in the NBA in points-per-play). Again, I guess that's because other teams are overplaying the roll man, leaving Paul and the Clipper shooters wide open.
The Suns' defense, by comparison, is not good against isolation plays (18th in the NBA in points allowed per attempt) or spot-ups (19.5% of shots against the Suns, 19th in the NBA in points allowed per attempt), but they are pretty good against the pick-and-roll ball handler. My guess here is that the Suns have decided to overplay the ball handler, which works okay for a moment but leaves a spot-up shooter wide open on the rotations.
The Suns' offense is weighted toward the pick-and-roll ball handler (14.2%), spot-ups (21.3%), post-ups (10.9%) and, somehow, transition (11.7%). The roll man scores at a high rate (2nd in the NBA in points-per-play), but only gets the ball 7.7% of the time in the Suns offense. Notice the similarity between the Suns' offense and the Clippers' offense.
The Clippers' defense is relatively ineffective across the board. The only type of play they defend well is the post-up (5th in the NBA). But they are real bad defending the roll man, isolation drives and spot-ups and they are just okay (like the Suns) at defending the ball handler.
While the Clippers are flashier and star-studded, these two teams' numbers are strikingly similar across the board. The big difference between the two teams, besides highlight-reel plays, is the game-ending finishing ability of Chris Paul and the crazy threat of Blake Griffin making defenses over-rotate to keep themselves off SportsCenter. So basically, the 2012 Clippers are closer to the 2005 Suns - though not nearly as good - than the 2012 Suns are.