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Preview: Suns head to L.A. for second back-to-back of the season

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After another narrow loss last night, can the Suns bounce back and beat the upstart Clippers on the road?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles for back to back against Clippers

When: 8:30 p.m. AZ

Where: Staples Center

Watch: NBA TV

Listen: 98.7 FM


Probable Starters

Suns: Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren, Deandre Ayton

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Suns

28th ORtg (104.3) - 29th DRtg (113.8) = 28th NetRtg (minus-9.4)

The results of the Point Book experiment under head coach Igor Kokoskov have fared better than they did last year under interim Jay Triano, though the talent upgrade probably has more to do with that than anything. It will face a tougher test tonight than usual in the Clippers, who won’t give Booker anywhere to hide on defense.

That means we will need to see even better showings from the supporting cast, especially Warren and Ayton. The starting frontcourt is coming off a strong two-way performance at home against the Pacers and will look to continue that momentum on the west coast. Warren saved the Suns with a huge block on Bojan Bogdanovic down low late in the fourth quarter and has looked great switching across two or three positions on a nightly basis. The Clippers provide an even easier matchup for switching defenses as all of their starters are similar size.

Yet the fact remains Booker can’t take even one possession off on that end. He was better on defense against Indiana but Gilgeous-Alexander, Bradley and Lou Williams are a murder’s row of tough playmakers that each could win a game on their own if they get hot.

One area the Suns could have an advantage is giving Ayton more scoring opportunities against the ground-bound duo of Gortat and Montrezl Harrell inside. Though Harrell has upped his block numbers this year, Ayton will have a physical advantage against him he didn’t against Myles Turner and Domantis Sabonis Tuesday at home. If Ayton has a strong, productive game and holds Harrell in check, the Suns could get a win despite the scheduling disadvantages they hold heading into L.A.

Clippers

6th ORtg (112.8) - 13th DRtg (108.9) = 8th NetRtg (plus-3.9)

Los Angeles is led by newly minted Western Conference Player of the Week Harris, fresh of his career-high in points Sunday night against the Trail Blazers, and a collection of versatile guards. Rookie Gilgeous-Alexander is the type of productive rookie who will go under the radar for end-of-year award recognition but is supremely valuable for a competitive team, and we all know the pedigree Williams brings scoring off the bench.

The reality is this is an incredibly dangerous offensive team that could build the type of quick lead that buried the Suns in so many early-season contests. Los Angeles has six guys capable of going for 30 and their length and size allows them to mix and match lineups to win every part of games. Though they physically look similar to Phoenix, their maturity and depth make them a tough matchup for the Suns.

Look for Harris and Gallinari to challenge Ariza and Warren early, running the offense and getting downhill against Ayton. The Clippers average the fifth-most drives per game and generate the fifth-most points per game on those plays. They are a long, crafty team that can bust out efficient shots at will.

Prediction

The rest disadvantage will be too much for the young Suns to overcome. This small anecdote from The Athletic’s Gina Mizell says everything about the Suns’ tough test heading toward their second back-to-back of the year:

Los Angeles hasn’t played since Sunday, while the Suns traveled postgame to California after a tough, physical game. And the questions about rest don’t even account for the glaring talent discrepancy between Phoenix and the Clippers.

This is the West’s best team versus its worst, and the outcome will show that.

Clippers 110, Suns 98