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Game Preview: Suns limp into Los Angeles to play resting Clippers

It’s a chance for the Suns to get off the schnide. But it’ll be a tough task to tackle.

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Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (16-12) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (17-13)

When: 8:30 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California

Watch: Bally Sports AZ, NBATV

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns -+1.5, O/U 217.5 Suns Moneyline +100


The ‘Suns Have Eliminated Us in the Playoffs Over One of the Last Two Years’ Tour continues in Los Angeles on Thursday night. I wonder if they’ll make t-shirts for this stretch of Suns games, where it feels like every other night they are playing a team they dispatched from the postseason.

If you simply were to look at the records between both the Suns and the Clippers, you think that this would be a perfect prime time battle. Phoenix carries with them the 5 seed; the Clippers the 6 seed. They’re separated in the standings by percentage points. But the journey for each team to get to this point of the season has been very different.

We are not sure if Devin Booker or Deandre Ayton will be playing in this game. The Suns have no Cameron Johnson. They have no Jae Crowder. They have no Cameron Payne. A team that started the season 15-6 now finds itself 16-12 and riding a five-game losing streak into Crypto.com Arena. Phoenix is in desperate need of a win, but playing the Clippers might not be the recipe to break the streak.

Los Angeles has been a team floundering for much of the first third of the season. Kawhi Leonard has been in and out of the lineup and they too have been dealing with their own injury list. Unlike the Suns, however, they are starting to hit on all cylinders during their current home seven game homestand. The team is on a three game winning streak, having recently dispatched the Boston Celtics. Remember them? The team that smacked Phoenix in the face like Irene McGee.

It’s a tale of two teams headed into different directions. Tonight could write the ship for Phoenix, or exacerbate their current issues.

Probable Starting Lineups

Out/Injured

Phoenix:

  • Deandre Ayton (ankle) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Devin Booker (hamstring) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Cameron Johnson (knee) is OUT
  • Cameron Payne (foot) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (where for art thou Jae) is NOT WITH TEAM

Los Angels Clippers:

**UPDATE***

Most of the Clippers are OUT for this game after playing the win over the Wolves on Tuesday night.

  • Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson and Norm Powell all OUT.
  • Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard both QUESTIONABLE

Updated likely starting lineup for the Clippers, with Marcus Morris the ONLY regular starter not mentioned on the injury report in some way.

Uniform Matchup

What to Watch For

All of our eyes will be on that injury report prior to the games tipoff. Both Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are questionable. I’m no mathematician, but when your top two scorers are not available for a game, your odds of winning drastically decrease. I’m sure DraftKings has some sort of percentage on that. We will watch to see if they’re available, and if not, how will Monty Williams navigate the roster.

The Clippers are like the Houston Rockets, but on steroids. They are long, athletic, and like to play that five-out basketball that is challenging to see when teams come to town. It’s one thing to try to defend it in a series, it’s another to try to defend it on a random Thursday night in December. **Update — most of those long, athletic Clippers are OUT for this game, the second of a back-to-back for them**

Keys to a Suns Win

The first half. The Suns have been horrendous since December 5 in the first half of games. Simply look at their shooting percentages by quarter since the losing streak began:

  • Q1: 40.2 FG% (30th)
  • Q2: 33 FG% (30th)
  • Q3: 47.9 FG% (18th)
  • Q4: 47.4 FG% (9th)
  • OT: 50 FG% (7th)

The team is digging themselves into holes that are insurmountable. So much energy must be spent attempting to recover from a slow start, that when the team gets close, can’t get over the hump. The opposition can take some possessions off, conserve their energy, and when Phoenix gets within four points, they can run off a quick 9-0 run and put Phoenix away. It’s all about how you started this one.

Prediction

I’d love for the “Voita Curse” to go away. I have not had much luck covering the Phoenix Suns for Bright Side of the Sun this season, as my record is now 1-5. But I’m not liking my chances tonight. Or on Saturday night, as I’ll be covering that game too.

The Clippers are another team that will definitely get up to play the wounded Phoenix team. And I don’t see Phoenix overcoming their talent and their desire to punch the Suns in the face.

Clippers by 12.


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