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Game Preview: Suns host Clippers in search of fifth straight win

The Phoenix Suns have a tough test against the Clippers at home tonight.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Phoenix Suns (18-15) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (20-12)

When: 7:00pm AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: 3TV and Arizona’s Family Sports

Listen: KMVP 98.7 FM


It’s no secret, the Suns and Clippers do not get along. This will be the first meeting between these two squads this season.

The last time these teams played, the Suns sent the Clippers packing for the second time in the past three postseasons. Phoenix won four straight games against the Clippers in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs after dropping Game 1 to send them home in five.

Phoenix will be without Kevin Durant for the second straight game tonight, so they will need others to step up against a dangerous Clippers squad.

Los Angeles has won three straight games and 8 of their last 10. They currently sit in the 4th seed and hold a 2.5-game lead over Phoenix.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Starters

Phoenix Suns:

  • Jusuf Nurkic
  • Chimezie Metu
  • Grayson Allen
  • Bradley Beal
  • Devin Booker

Los Angeles Clippers:

  • Ivica Zubac
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Paul George
  • Terance Mann
  • James Harden

Injury Report

Phoenix Suns:

  • Kevin Durant - OUT (Right Hamstring Soreness)
  • Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)

Los Angeles Clippers:

  • N/A

What to Watch For

  • Bench Mob Battle

The Clippers bench unit is led by Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell along with veteran big man Daniel Theis.

Phoenix’s depth will be tested without Durant in the mix and we should be in for more Metu, Bol, and Bates-Diop minutes than usual for the second consecutive game.

Frank Vogel has said he wants a consistent rotation and for the experimenting to halt, but when injuries happen as frequently as they have this season it’s a difficult task.

  • Wings vs. Big Guards

The Clippers trio of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden gives them a legitimate trio filled with offensive firepower. Leonard just returned from a hip injury and poured in 24 points in a win over the Heat in their last game.

Harden is starting to hit his stride with his new team, and has recorded two consecutive double-doubles. Paul George continues to do Paul George things on the perimeter scoring in bunches. Phoenix will have its hands full defensively and will need their defensive-minded players to show up in a big way on both ends.

Devin Booker and Bradley Beal are a handful to contain themselves, and they will need to put their playmaking caps on to get others involved to outscore the Clippers.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns will need a vintage performance from Devin Booker after a dud against the Blazers on New Year’s Day.

  • Battle of the Bigs

Jusuf Nurkic needs to avoid foul trouble in this one, as they will be relying on his ability to serve as an outlet and playmaker up top without Durant.

Nurk has been productive of late, playing his role to a tee. They’ll need plenty more of that tonight against an explosive Clippers team.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Ivica Zubac has been a steady contributor and has bruised the Suns on the glass throughout his career. Nurkic will need to keep him off the glass, as Zubac is averaging 14.0 rebounds per game over his last four contests.

The production from bigs off the bench will be interesting to monitor as well, as the Clippers are known to go small occasionally. Lots of interesting matchups throughout, so Vogel will have his hands full against the savvy Ty Lue.

Prediction

Being down Durant, I’m not as confident in this one to be quite frank. My prediction is the Clippers take it 118-112, but I hope to be proven wrong.

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