Clippers vs. Suns - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
vs.
Suns logo
10-23 26-11
Staples Center
Jan. 15, 2008 - 7:30 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Steve Nash
Quinton Ross SG Raja Bell
Corey Maggette SF Boris Diaw
Tim Thomas PF Shawn Marion
Chris Kaman C Amare Stoudemire
The Big Picture:

The Clippers have lost 10 of their last 11 games.  The 10 losses have come against 10 playoff teams, with an overall winning percentage of 66.7 (248 and 124).  Eight of the games have come against the top five teams in the nasty Western Conference, who amazingly are currently within a single game of each other in the standings.  And tonight they face the Suns for the third time in eight games and the final time this season.  This certainly looked like a brutal stretch on the schedule, and it has lived up to expectations.  The Clippers have played well of late.  They took the lead from the Spurs in the fourth quarter before falling by 6.  They had a chance to take the lead against the Magic with 3 minutes to go before losing by 7.  And they led basically wire-to-wire against Dallas before giving up a walk-off three.  But they've still lost 10 of 11.  Good teams find a way to win, and bad teams find a way to lose.

The Antagonist:

The Clippers have actually played the Suns better in Phoenix this season.  In their last meeting they probably would have won except for a complete stinker of a game from Corey Maggette (3-17).  And back in November Kaman went 6 for 18 in a 9 point loss.  The point is, maybe the Clippers can play with the Suns, but they certainly can't afford sub-par games from their scorers.  The Suns started the season thinner than ever, and recently got thinner still when Grant Hill had an appendectomy.  That puts former Clipper Brian Skinner and Marcus Banks squarely in their 8 man rotation.  The problem for Suns opponents is that the other 6 are REALLY good.  I'm talking recent award winners good.  Nash, Stoudemire and Marion are all All Stars and All Pros.  Barbosa was last season's Sixth Man Award winner.  Raja Bell was first team All Defense last season.  Boris Diaw won the Most Improved Player Award the season before that.  There can't be another roster in basketball that boasts so many awards from the last two seasons.

The Subplots

  • Apparently Injuries Matter.  The Suns lost by 20 in Utah last week in Utah playing without their best player and without three starters.  Now they know how the Clippers feel.  Watching that game, I was struck by Doug Collins talking about how the Suns are susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds or some such blather and I thought to myself 'Why are you even talking about the Suns.  These aren't the Suns.  There's no point in analyzing this team.'  And that's how I feel about the Generic Clippers.  Individual growth from Kaman and Thornton in particular is important.  And I think there's something to be said for learning to win as a team which makes the current struggles problematic.  But for the most part, what's the point in analyzing this team, when it's not even close to the team that will take the court next November when anywhere from two to four starters will be different?  Of course, as a Clippers Blogger, it pains me to realize there's no point to all of this.
  • First Meeting from ClipperSteve's perspective. Although the Clippers and Suns have played three times already, I have not seen any of those games.  The NBA schedule makers saw fit, not only to ensure that there was no chance the Suns would have to face Elton Brand this season, but also to put all of there games in holiday weeks - the day after Thanksgiving, and then back to back a couple of days after Christmas.  I've missed a total of five games this season - three of them have been against the Suns.  So if you're looking for specific insights based on observations of the first three meetings, you might try ClipperBlog.
  • Kaman's Ankle.  According to this morning's LA Times, Chris Kaman is questionable for this game after tweaking his ankle in the Dallas game.  Clippers.com lists him as a game time decision.  I certainly didn't see him hurt himself in the Dallas game.  I'd be very surprised if he didn't play.  If he doesn't, it will be the first time this season.  And oh by the way, the Clippers have no chance without him.  Quinton Ross will play tonight after getting poked in the eye Saturday.  That's good news, since he'll spend a lot of time guarding Steve Nash or Leandro Barbosa.
  • That's Amare.  Here are Amare Stoudemire's averages from the first three meetings with the Clippers this season.  29 points, 12 rebounds, 73% shooting (33 for 45) - in 30 minutes per game.  After struggling for the first 4 years of his career guarding big centers, Kaman seems to be having a (somewhat more understandable) problem guarding the super-quick Stoudemire this season.  Of course, if Nash and Barbosa and Diaw are penetrating and forcing Chris to help, Amare is going to get a lot of open shots around the rim.  So it starts with the perimeter defenders keeping their man out of the lane.
  • On the Road Again.  Tonight's game is the last in a six game home stand.  Moreover, due to the unusually leisurely pace of games (about one every three days), the Clippers have been in LA for 17 days.  They have not played a road game in 2008.  That changes soon.  After a quick trip to Utah followed by three more home games, LA goes on the road for 9 out of 11.  Of course, with a home record of 5-13, the road is probably looking pretty good about now.
  • Will Guillermo Diaz Get in the Game? The Clippers signed Diaz to a 10 day contract on Jan 9th.  He was inactive for the first game due to a clerical error, and did not get into the second game, probably because MDsr had a slim lead and couldn't bear to take his Blanket off the floor.  Tonight and Friday night in Utah are the last two chances to see Diaz in an actual game before the 10 days are up (the Clippers could choose to sign him for another 10 days).  Wouldn't it make sense to actually give the guy some minutes?  I realize that they wanted another warm body for practices, but this season is going nowhere.  Let's see if the kid can play.
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