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Ayton, Booker, Crowder, Paul all OUT, Powell returns as Suns visit Clippers on back-to-back

The Suns are fresh off a satisfying elimination of the Lakers, while the Clippers are bound for the play-in tournament.

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (63-16) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (39-40)

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Clippers are slightly favored

At this point the final games are effectively a playoff prep for the Phoenix Suns. They’ve climbed the mountaintop of the regular season, dominating the league in historic fashion and setting a franchise record winning mark in the process. With only three games to go, and no position to play for, the Suns have to have their sights set on being fully prepared to replicate that success in the postseason.

Despite having locked up the #1 seed, the Suns’ recent losses to Oklahoma City and Memphis had some fans a touch worried. Those worries were (probably) put to bed last night, when the Suns blasted and eliminated from the postseason the hated Los Angeles Lakers.

The Clippers are basically locked into their spot in the play-in tournament, but are well-rested having not played since April 3.

Starting Lineups

UPDATE:

Suns: Ayton, Booker, Crowder, Paul all OUT for rest/injury management

Clippers: Normal Powell set to return, putting likely playoff lineup in play

Both teams may well rest any combination of players, so regardless of who starts I wouldn’t necessarily expect very heavy minutes from either team’s stars. The Clippers might play it a bit harder though, despite being four games up on the 9th place New Orleans Pelicans, to try to build some momentum and confidence against the Suns in the event they do win the right to face Phoenix in the playoffs.

Suns:

PG- Chris Paul

SG- Devin Booker

SF- Mikal Bridges

PF- Jae Crowder

C - Deandre Ayton

Clippers:

PG - Reggie Jackson

SG - Paul George

SF - Marcus Morris

PF - Nicolas Batum

C- Ivica Zubac

Out/Injured

Phoenix:

  • Dario Saric (knee) is OUT
  • Frank Kaminsky (knee soreness) is OUT

Los Angeles:

  • Kawhi Leonard (knee) is OUT
  • Jason Preston (foot) is OUT
  • Norman Powell (foot) is OUT
  • Jay Scrubb (toe) is OUT

What to watch for:

This game feels anticlimactic after last night’s satisfying defeat of the Lakers. This is a below mediocre Clippers team that still doesnt have Kawhi Leonard available, the most optimistic projection for him being that he “might be” available for the first round if the Clippers can survive the play-in tourney.

Still, it’s worth watching how the Suns approach this late season contest against a very possible first round playoff opponent. Do they try to send a message? Experiment with different matchups and approaches? Or do they just go out there loosey goosey? This game could be a bit of insight into the team’s (and coach Monty Williams’) mentality at this late point in the season.

Prediction:

I think the Suns narrowly drop this one, just because of the combination of being on the road, being on a back to back, and not playing their best players normal minutes. The starters all got reduced minutes against the Lakers, and I expect the minutes might be even more reduced tonight. Though I could be wrong.

Regardless, I wouldn’t sweat a Suns loss one bit, absent some kind of troubling development I don’t want to imagine. We know how good this team is and we know the potential for a championship run is there if they play like they are capable.