What: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns
When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: FoxSports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Tonight’s game in Phoenix features two teams struggling to get into the win column in the past week.
After a 6-6 Christmas present to win-starved Suns fans the Phoenix Suns have lost 6 of their last 8 games, including 4 in a row.
Meanwhile, the Clippers have lost 4 of their last 5 games, including two in a row. The Suns were the Clippers winning elixir last time they met up, turning a six-game losing streak into a 7-game winning streak. Surely, the Clippers hope to feast on the Suns carcass once again.
Due to injuries, this isn’t the same Clippers team that’s been playoff regulars for many years, but it will be a healthier team than the one that beat the Suns by 19 last time they met.
Perennial All-Star Blake Griffin has started the last two games after missing 18, but Chris Paul is still lost for significant time once again. He did not play in the earlier Suns-Clippers matchup and now has a torn ligament in his thumb. He should have been an All-Star, but probably was left off the squad due to missing too many games this year.
DeAndre Jordan IS an All-Star, and the back court of J.J. Redick (15 PPG over last 5) and Austin Rivers (18.6 PPG, 48% 3P shooting over last 5) are carrying the scoring load in support of returning star Blake Griffin.
Jamal Crawford is having a tough season, shooting under 40% from the field, but don’t worry he’ll likely get hot tonight and remind everyone how he won 6th Man of the Year.
For the month of January, despite missing Blake Griffin for almost all of it and Chris Paul for half the month, the Clippers went 8-4 and had the league’s 6th ranked offense and 15th ranked defense.
For the month of January, the Suns were 7th on offense, so you can expect a high-scoring game again tonight.
But the reason the Suns went 5-8 was their 27th ranked defense for the month - which hasn’t even been that good over the four game losing streak. Over the losing streak, the Suns are dead last on defense, giving up 112, 127, 123 and 115 points.
“I think on the defensive end, we were losing focus, me included,” rookie Marquese Chriss said of the Suns defense on Monday. “Losing the weak-side corner man. The wing players, they were driving it into the post and they were doing well at finding the extra pass. I think we were closing out a little late. It got away from us when they started making a lot more shots down the road.”
That quote could apply to most games this season, and to most players on the roster.
Old man Tyson Chandler, 34 this season, has had a tough few games after setting records during the Suns winning stretch (7 straight 15+ rebound games). In two of the last three games, Chandler has pulled down 5 or fewer rebounds and scored 4 or fewer points. Even his 15/13 game against Denver on Saturday was below his standards, prompting the coach to suppose he’s hit a fatigue wall lately and needs to bounce back.
We can hope that Dragan Bender’s ankle feels good enough to get back into the lineup. He’s been out for the entire losing streak.
It’s been a four game losing streak that managed to kill most of the remaining playoff-run hopes in advance of this month’s trading deadline. The Suns are now 7 losses back in the loss column from the 8th-seeded Nuggets and firmly in last place in the West with 2 fewer wins than any other West team.
So that means it’s time for a Suns win. That’s just the way the NBA goes.
I’ll predict a home win against the CP-less Clippers, with Eric Bledsoe putting up another 30-spot against his former team to help the Suns outlast Blake Griffin’s almost-certain 40-point resurgent game.
What say you?