Clippers at Suns - Game Preview

 

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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3-13

7-8
US Airways Center
November 26th, 2010, 6:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket , KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Steve Nash
 Eric Gordon SG

Jason Richardson

Al-Farouq Aminu
SF Grant Hill
Blake Griffin
PF Hedo Turkoglu
DeAndre Jordan
C Channing Frye

 

The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season. The Suns swept the season series last year 4 games to none.

The Big Picture:

For the first time since February, the Clippers are on a winning streak. After opening the season with one win in their first 14 games, they've won back to back games this week to triple their win total. Of course, both of those wins came in Staples Center, and the team remains winless on the road. But for a young squad, there is certainly something to be said for confidence. If they can go into Phoenix and play like they've been playing the last two games, they'll at least give themselves a chance. Blake Grififn needs to have a big game, and there's no reason to suspect that he won't. The Suns are not a big team to begin with, and their starting center, Robin Lopez is injured, so they're playing what amounts to three small forwards in their frontcourt. Griffin has been playing his best basketball over the course of the last week, and if Phoenix tries to defend him with Hedo Turkoglu, he could go for 50. Eric Gordon is the other key to the Clippers, and he'll also have to have a big game. He's currenlty seventh in the NBA in scoring at almost 24 points per game. More importantly, he's the Clippers best creator on offense, and it will likely come down to him making a play in a close game. The Clippers U23 starting lineup will be pushed tonight by the savvy vets of the Suns - though it is possible that coach Vinny Del Negro will tweak the lineup to adjust to the Suns unique personnel. Don't be surprised if he slide Blake to the center, and inserts Ryan Gomes at the power forward, as he did in the game against Detroit.

The Antagonist:

The Suns have issues, there's little doubt about that.  Amare Stoudemire left for the Knicks via free agency this summer, and the moves they made to fill the void made little sense, as they added a series of small forwards - a position that was already pretty crowded. And they're certainly not getting any younger. They've lost four of their last five games, most recently blowing a 23 point lead at home against the Bulls on Wednesday and losing in double overtime. With Lopez out, they don't have a center that they'll let off the bench, and they were already loaded down with way too many threes and not any true fours to speak of. As you might suspect, the Suns tend to get clobbered on the boards, and indeed they have the worst defensive rebounding percentage in the league. As it happens, rebounding is one of the only thing the Clippers do at a better than average level, so LA should dominate the boards in this one. But let's face it, the Steve Nash Suns have never won basketball games with defense and rebounding - they win by outscoring their opponent, and they can still do that. Still, the offense/defense dichotomy that has characterized the Suns for many seasons now is more pronounced than ever this season. The team is third in the NBA in offensive efficiency; and last in defensive efficiency. So we should see some points put on the board.

The Subplots

  • The kids against the fogies. The Clippers have been starting a lineup where the oldest palyer is 22 year old DeAndre Jordan. The Suns start two of the oldest players in the league in Grant Hill (38) and Steve Nash (36), and two other starters are in their 30s. Grant Hill was going to college about the time Eric Bledsoe was born.
  • Defense. The Clippers were absolutely terrible defensively during their nine game losing streak. They've been better the last two, which just happen to have been wins. The Suns on the road will be a major test. Have the kids actually started to figure out how to defend, or did they just run into two teams struggling to score?
  • Three point shooting. Particularly frightening for the Clippers is the fact that the Suns are among the league leaders in three point attempts (4th) and three point percentage (9th). The Clippers of course are dead last in defending the three, giving up 43% from deep on the season. If the Clippers can do a decent job defending the arc, they give themselves a chance in this game. Three Suns take at least 4 threes a game, and three more take at least two, so there are plenty of guys to stay home on - like the entire lineup sometimes.
  • Bledsoe vs. Nash. Eric Bledsoe was thrown into the starting lineup because of injuries just about the time the Clippers faced all the top point guards in the Western Conference. All except for one. This is Bledsoe's first meeting with Nash, and it could be an eye opener. It will be interesting to see how the kid performs against the crafty Nash. Bledsoe is a monster athlete, learning how to play the point; Nash knows the position inside and out, and has never relied on athleticism for NBA success. They couldn't be more different.
  • Who guards Griffin? Who will the Suns give the assignment of Blake Griffin? Unless they decide to bring Garrett Siler or Earl Barron off their bench, I don't see anyone who can handle him. He's too quick for Turkoglu, and too strong for the likes of Channing Frye or Hakim Warrick. Of course, every time we think Blake has a major matchup advantage, it rarely works out that way.
  • Tough turnaround. Not only are the Clippers playing a back to back, they also are traveling east to a different time zone. They've got a 6 PM Pacific tip tonight, after playing a 7:30 game in LA last night. That's a very difficult back to back.
  • Channing Frye begat Brian Cook. With the success of Frye with the Suns last season, teams were looking for the next 'stretch four' that could come out of nowhere. That's why Brian Cook ended up on the Clippers - because he's 6'10" and he can shoot threes, which more or less sums up Frye's resume as well. Cook has actually been much better recently than I thought he would be. He's rebounded and defended well when he's been in the game, and he's certainly not afraid to shoot, which can not be said of all the Clipper reserves. With Griffin and Craig Smith at power forward, Cook is probably a better option than say Jarron Collins. He can spread the floor and open up the post for Griffin/Smith to operate, where Collins and his defender would be clogging the middle. Don't get me wrong, it will be nice when Kaman is back and Cook is getting DNPs again, but he's actually done OK.
  • Suns domination. The Suns may not have a 17 game win streak against the Clippers like the Spurs or even 14 like the Hornets, but they've had LA's number the last few years. They've won 8 straight, and most of those were truly embarrassing losses. Since former Clipper coach Alvin Gentry took over the Suns, he has not lost, and has a couple of 40 point wins under his belt. No current Clipper has ever beaten the Suns as a Clipper, save Chris Kaman who will likely not play in this game.
  • Don't wait up. I'll be on a plane during the game and won't be back home until 10 PM or so. I'll watch the game tonight and write a recap, but it could be pretty late. If someone wants to get their own recap out there on the FanPosts a little more quickly, feel free.
  • Superstar for one game: Josh Childress. Childress has not been bad since returning from Europe to the NBA; but he hasn't been as good as I expected. Part of the problem is that he's having trouble getting minutes on a team that has about 30 small forwards.
  • Famous Quotation: 

    Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
    And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
    Alfred Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall.
  • Get the Suns perspective at Bright Side of the Sun.
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