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Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game Preview

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Will the Suns get back in the win column today against the Los Angeles Clippers? Can the Suns keep their emotions under control while playing with intensity and aggression against one of their biggest Western Conference rivals?

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix, AZ

When: 4:00 pm Locally/6:00 pm Eastern

Watch: Fox Sports AZ / Listen: AZ Sports 98.7 FM

This afternoon, the Suns will attempt to rinse the bad taste out of their mouths after suffering yet another buzzer-beater loss at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Friday night; their third such loss this season...and leading the NBA in this unfortunate category.

For the Suns, this will be the sixth game of their eight-game home stretch, of which they are 4-1 thus far.  It would be a big boost to the Suns' confidence, and also their standings if they can pull out a big win against a very tough Western Conference foe, after a late rally that fell just short against Houston.

As for the Clippers, they are coming off of a 123-84 blowout win against the Brooklyn Nets at home Thursday night, in which they simply dominated from start to finish.  Chris Paul only scored 6 points in that game, but dished out 17 assists getting everyone else on the team going, with Blake Griffin leading the way on 24 points and 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

The Clippers are on a roll, winning three in a row, and nine of their last twelve games.  The Suns will have to come out sharp and focused to get the win tonight, and can't afford to come out playing disjointed and out of sync the way they did against the Rockets, or they will be met with the same result.

Tale of the Tape:

Probable Starting Lineups

Team
Suns
Clippers
PG
Eric Bledsoe
Chris Paul
SG
Goran Dragic
J.J. Redick
SF
P.J. Tucker
Matt Barnes
PF
Markieff Morris
Blake Griffin
C
Alex Len
DeAndre Jordan

What To Watch For:

  • Protect the Paint - The Clippers feature a tandem of the most athletic big men in the league, with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan looking to dunk everything that moves.  The Suns can't allow either to establish position in the low post, or they will certainly pay for it.  While Blake Griffin has improved his jump-shooting, outside shots are still the most preferable shot to force him into taking, and the Suns need to box out in anticipation of the miss, which leads to...
  • Rebounding - The Clippers are actually slightly worse at rebounding than the Suns, grabbing an average of 41.2 boards per game compared to Phoenix at 42.5.  The Clippers' biggest threat in this department is DeAndre Jordan, who uses his tremendous length and athleticism to grab anything he can get his hands on...and is averaging a very impressive 13.4 rebounds per game.  Alex Len, Brandan Wright, and Miles Plumlee need to make sure to get their bodies between Jordan and the basket to deny him a chance at the ball, and let one of the other players rotate down to secure the ball.  If they can keep DeAndre off the glass, they should win this battle.
  • Play Hard, But Smart - The majority of the Suns looked like they were half-asleep during the first three quarters of the game against Houston on Saturday night...Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas being the main exceptions.  Key players either struggled offensively or defensively, got into foul trouble, or received technicals that really cost the team.  Tonight, the Suns need to come out focus and prepared to play with energy and intensity, but also keeping their emotions under control at the same time.  This game is almost certain to get chippy at times, with both teams having a history of altercations and trash talking on the court.  But the Suns can't afford to let their emotions get the best of them resulting in flagrants, technicals, or ejections; or force coach Hornacek's hand in benching them if they argue with the refs either.

Prediction:

Oh boy.  I think this game could end up being a slug fest, both metaphorically, and perhaps literally as well. These two teams just don't like each other, and you can almost certainly expect this to manifest itself on the court in one way or another tonight.  For the Suns' sake, I hope they let their play do the talking instead of their mouths.  Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Matt Barnes are professional irritants who know just how to push the right buttons and embed themselves underneath the opposition's skin.  The Suns can't win by falling into their trap.  Instead, they need to remain focused at the task at hand, and channel their rage through their play.

I expect the Suns to come out with a chip on their shoulder this afternoon after a lackluster performance against the Rockets.  This is the perfect game for the Suns to right the ship and re-establish their winning ways with a statement win over one of their biggest Pacific Division rivals.

If they can remain under control while giving it their all, I expect the Suns to edge out the Clippers in a close one.

Suns win 113-109.