Who: Phoenix Suns (19-17) @ Los Angeles Clippers (22-13)
When: 8:30pm AZ Time
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
Watch: NBATV, 3TV, and Arizona’s Family Sports
Listen: KMVP 98.7 FM
When the Phoenix Suns lost to the Los Angeles Clippers last week 131-122, it felt as if they were severely overmatched. Despite a valiant comeback, the Clippers’ firepower was too much. And that is coming from a Phoenix team with plenty of firepower.
As you take a step back, however, you realize a couple of things. First, the Suns were without their leading scorer in Kevin Durant. Second, the Clippers shot 52.9% from beyond the arc, their high mark for the season. Knowing those two factors played into their win, you don’t freak out. Much.
The Clippers’ three-point shooting, which is currently 2nd in the league at 38.6%, is still scary. Sprinkle in the fact that Paul George gets his jollies playing against Devin Booker, and a tough matchup lies before the Suns as they spend their week in the City of Angels playing both the Clips and the Lakers.
Both teams are on the second night of a back-to-back, and both teams are coming off of losses. The Suns could not survive the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies, losing 121-115, and the Clippers lost just their third game since December first, losing 106-103 to the Lakers.
- Kevin Durant - PROBABLE (Right Hamstring Strain)
- Eric Gordon - PROBABLE (Right Knee Soreness)
- Udoka Azubuike – DOUBTFUL (Illness)
- Bol Bol - OUT (Right Ankle Sprain)
- Nassir Little - OUT (Left Knee Soreness)
- Damion Lee - OUT (Right Meniscus Surgery)
Los Angeles Clippers:
- Moussa Diabate - OUT (Hip)
What to Watch For
The star power alone in this game is worth the watch.
You have a combined 51 All-Star appearances between both rosters and 39 All-NBA selections. With both teams at full strength relative to starters, this game has an opportunity to be quite the offensive shootout.
Of course, you have the sub-plots. Former teammates with the Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant and James Harden will face off for the first time since the two were teammates. The two have played in 311 games together, winning 65.3% of them. KD has played 608 games with Russell Westbrook, who has been excelling at coming off of the bench for the Clippers.
The battle down low between Ivica Zubac and Jusuf Nurkic could be a determining factor in this game as the two Bosnian centers will be battling for the boards.
The Battle of the Bosnian Bigs.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 8, 2024
Jusuf Nurkic averages 12.4 PTS and 10 REBS against Ivica Zubac
Ivica Zubac averages 9.4 PTS and 7.9 REBS against Jusuf Nurkic pic.twitter.com/Oo0RkQrjJ9
One thing you don’t want to give a team like the Clippers is second chance opportunities. Nurkic must be dedicated to navigating his matchup with Zubac via physicality on the glass, and the Suns need to do their best job to provide any help rebounding that they can.
Key to a Suns Win
The Clippers run the most isolation in the NBA, doing so on 11.9% of their possessions. For context, the Suns are 10th in the league at 6.9%. The Clippers do so with good reason. Players like James Harden, Paul, George, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook, win with their talent and can beat the majority of defenders in the NBA in one-on-one situations.
What makes Los Angeles so hard to defend is if you attempt to provide help defense on those isolation attempts, they willingly whip the ball around to wide-open three-point shooters, and as we noted before, this is the second-best three-point shooting team in the NBA.
Frank Vogel and his coaching staff are going to have to make a decision: double team in hopes that the three-ball isn’t falling tonight or hope that his team can hold up in isolation.
Perhaps it’s recency bias after witnessing the Clippers shoot 52.9% from the three-point line last week, or the most recent fourth-quarter collapse against sub-par competition, but I’m feeling another loss coming. The Clip Show is one of the best offensive teams in the NBA right now, and the Suns? Well, they are sporting a defensive rating of 115.7 (16th) and allowing 113.8 points (14th).
Yes, their defensive has appeared to be more cohesive of late, and I feel like it will continue to improve as the communication increases with reps. Just not tonight.
Clippers 129, Suns 120