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Game Preview: Suns can clinch playoff spot with win over Clippers

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Suns and Clippers may finish with the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the West, pitting them in a possible second round faceoff.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers

What: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Phoenix Suns Arena

Watch: ESPN, Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Happy (belated) Birthday to radio play-by-play caller Al McCoy! The young whippersnapper turned 88 two days ago as the Suns beat the New York Knickerbockers in the Big Apple. Tonight, he calls his first game as an 88 year-old on his home court of nearly 50 years, sounding remarkably the same as always.

And next month, for the first time in a decade, Al will finally get to call another playoff (or at least play-in) game. The Phoenix Suns cannot finish lower than 8th even if they lose all their remaining games (which they won’t) and are only one win away (or losses by Spurs and Blazers) from clinching a top-six seed and certain playoff berth without having to worry about any play-in tournament.

All we need now is for the Suns to keep on winning.

Next up is the extremely talented Los Angeles Clippers, one of only two West contenders with a tie-breaker advantage over the Suns (the other being Denver). That is important, considering the Clippers have tied the Suns’ 43 wins on the season, though they still have two more losses (remember the Suns are a couple games behind because of the COVID delays). Suns have 11 games left, while the Clippers have only 9.

Probable Starting Lineups

Monty Williams has cycled through a few starters at power forward this year. With Jae Crowder probably still out, it’s a toss up between Cameron Johnson and Torrey Craig.

The Clippers have used this five-man starting unit occasionally, including the last game, while others have been injured, and they have played well.


Injury Report

Clippers:

  • Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka remain OUT
  • Kawhi Leonard is doubtful
  • Nicolas Batum (right shoulder strain) and Amir Coffey (tailbone contusion) are questionable.

Suns:

  • Dario Saric (ankle) and Jae Crowder (ankle) are questionable.
  • Abdel Nader is OUT. This week he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee after missing more than a month of games.

Three bombs

The Suns are 0-2 against the Clippers this year, in part because Paul George has made 14 of 19 threes in two games versus the Suns. That’s 7 of 10 back in January, then 7 of 9 in April.

But it’s not all PG. The Clippers as a team are 35 of 66 on threes in two games (53%) against the Suns! This against a Suns team that’s giving up only 35% on threes (5th lowest) all season. While the Clippers are a gaudy league-leading 42% on threes this year, you’ve got to think there will be a little regression to the mean.

Two Stars

Fellow writer John Voita outlined the Suns luck this year in playing teams without their biggest salaried-players on the court, but the Clippers have been an exception. Each time, the Clips have played both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard against the Suns. This time though, Leonard is doubtful.

The Clippers have missed players a lot this year though, but have still managed to nearly match the Suns record despite all the injuries. That’s because guys like Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac and Terrance Mann have contributed greatly, and even Marcus Morris Sr. is blowing away his career high on threes by making 47% this season. The Clips as a team might set a league record for three point percentage by the end of the season.

One win

It’s a bit complicated, but I am pretty sure that the Suns would clinch a top-6 seed with a win over the Clippers tonight. This would be the first playoff appearance for the Phoenix Suns in 11 years. Calls for a celebration, amiright?

Well, as it stands, and if the Suns indeed win the game tonight, they get a little bit closer to a Clippers/Suns second round playoff series, assuming each team wins their first round matchup. So pay particular attention to whether you think the Suns could beat the Clippers four out of seven times.


Stats

You’re looking at two of the best teams in the entire Association tonight. The Suns have the league’s second best record, and the Clippers have the third best. Doesn’t get much closer to the top than that.


Prediction

I’m guessing the Suns take this one, simply because they’re due to face a Clippers team that makes less than half their threes. Right? RIGHT?

Suns win, 120-115