Mar. 2, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat (top left) and forward Grant Hill and Los Angeles Clippers forward Reggie Evans (bottom left) and forward Bobby Simmons (bottom right) look up for a rebound in the first half at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Clippers 81-78. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
|2011/2012 NBA Regular Season|
|March 15th, 2012, 7:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have been in a funk since just before the All-Star break, there's no denying that. But one thing they've been able to do all season is avoid losing three in a row. They did it again last night, winning after two straight losses for the fourth time this season. Now maybe they can actually win two in a row -- something they haven't done in four weeks (yikes -- no wonder all of the Citizens of Clips Nation are so cranky). A little winning streak would go a long way toward making everyone associated with the team feel a lot better. The last meeting with the Suns was a train wreck. The Clippers were lethargic on the second game of a road back-to-back, and Phoenix was no better, as both teams shot well below 40% for the game. Let's hope in the name of basketball that this game is better. If there's any good news from the 5-8 record of the last four weeks it's that the Clippers are starting to find a bench. The recent emergence of Eric Bledsoe, the signing of Bobby Simmons, and yes, maybe even a willingness on the part of Reggie Evans to actually take a layup when he has the ball at the rim, has provided the team with a viable second unit for really the first time this season. Unfortunately, the starters have been slumping, but assuming that's temporary, the Clippers could be eventually better off than they were before this stretch. How's that for optimism?
The Suns just refuse to suck. Every year, you think they're going to suck. This year, I figured they'd suck especially hard. And for awhile it looked like they did suck. But suddenly they've won 8 of 11 and they're right back in the Western Conference playoff race, sitting in 10th place just three games back of the 8th place Mavericks, not sucking. Of course, 10 of those 11 games were at home, and things get a lot tougher right now, as 13 of their next 18 are on the road. And it's starting with a back-to-back-to-back (B2B2B) -- game one was last night's home win over Utah, tonight is the sandwich game against the Clippers, and tomorrow night they're back in Phoenix. This is the second time the Suns have played a B2B2B this season, and the first time around Coach Alvin Gentry rested both Steve Nash and Grant Hill during the sandwich game. We'll see if the Clippers get so lucky tonight -- though after what happened in Cleveland when Kyrie Irving was a late scratch, I'm not completely convinced it would be a good thing if Nash and Hill sat.
- Tonight's Special Guest Recapper. Fearless Leader.
- Suns Q&A. In anticipation of this game I again exchanged some questions with Seth Pollack of SBNation's Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun. Check out his answers for more in depth Suns knowledge than I can provide. You can also head over to BSotS to read my answers to his questions about the Clippers.
- Key Suns Metrics
Pace: 92.4 (8th of 30 NBA Teams)
Off Rtg: 104.1 (17th of 30)
Def Rtg: 105.6 (20th of 30)
Well, comparing these numbers to the last time the teams played, we can see why the Suns have been winning more. They've added 1.2 points to their offensive efficiency number -- a decent spike for a seven game period. But the offense is still 1.5 points per 100 possessions worse than the defense, belying the 20-22 overall record.
- Key Clippers Metrics
89.5 (26th of 30)
Off Rtg: 108.2 (5th of 30)
Def Rtg: 105.8 (21st of 30)
- Two weeks ago. These teams played just two weeks ago. Rather than repeating all the bullets here, you can go read that preview. (I'll still repeat some key ones.)
- Point guard battle. We were all looking forward to the battle of the great pass first point guards when these teams last met. Well, Chris Paul had a bad game, and Steve Nash had a terrible game. Nash may not play at all in this one, which would leave the Suns starting former Clipper Sebastian Telfair. Not much of a battle there.
- Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe has been a difference-maker in two of the last three ball games, leading a furious comeback that ultimately fell short against the Warriors and scoring a season-high 14 in the win against the Hawks. He had eight steals in a total of 33 minutes in those games. Wow. In between, he played just 5 minutes in the loss to the Celtics. Sure, he picked up 3 fouls in those 5 minutes, but you still get 6 total right? I'm not sure why he wouldn't get more minutes the way he's been playing. I expect him to get some burn tonight.
- Clipper starters rested. With the Clippers bench stepping up big time last night, the starters played significantly fewer minutes than usual. Chris Paul logged only 31 minutes and Blake Griffin 33.
- Griffin struggled. In the meeting two weeks ago, Blake Griffin shot just 6 for 19 from the field and only had 7 rebounds. This was in a matchup with Channing Frye, not exactly the most vaunted defender in the league. To make matters worse, Frye grabbed a game high 14 rebounds, doubling up on Griffin on the boards. Let's hope that Griffin remembers, is embarrassed, and seeks a little revenge.
- Coaching connections. Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry of the Suns was the Clippers coach for the better part of three seasons from 2000 to 2003. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro finished his playing career in Phoenix in 2001 (he was traded to the Clippers a couple weeks into the 01-02 season and subsequently waived). Vinny then moved into the Phoenix front office, first as the director of player personnel, and then as assistant GM, before taking the head coaching job in Chicago in 2008.
- Pick and roll defense. This game may be decided by which team does a better job of defending the pick and roll. With Steve Nash on one side and Chris Paul on the other, both teams have offenses that consist almost exclusively of picking and rolling. Don't be surprised if Kenyon Martin gets a lot of burn in place of DeAndre Jordan because of his superior defense against the P/R.
- Setting Suns. In addition to Nash, the Suns also start 39 year old Grant Hill, the second oldest player in the league. The rest of the team is relatively young -- Michael Redd, recently signed and little used, is the only other player on the roster over 30. But Nash means everything to the team, and Hill is an important piece as well, and while the rest of the roster may not be old, they're also not that good. But because of the potential wear and tear on these NBA senior citizens, it's possible that Alvin Gentry will choose to rest Nash and Hill tonight.
- Pacific Division Standings. The Clippers have never won the Pacific Division in the 34 seasons since they moved from Buffalo to California. We know that the Lakers have won most of those division titles, but the Suns have been near the top of the division almost the entire time as well. In fact, in those 34 seasons, the Clippers have finished with a better record than the Suns just once -- the Clippers have finished ahead of the Lakers four times. So to be looking down in the standings at the Suns is actually a more rare occurrence than to be ahead of the Lakers (which the Clippers aren't anymore, but they'll catch them).
- Nash in the NCAA tournament. Given that we're in March Madness, let us not forget that as a freshman Nash led his Santa Clara Broncos to a first round win over Arizona in one of those rare 15-2 upsets, way back in 1993. As a senior, Nash's Broncos upset Maryland in the first round. You gotta love WCC teams in the tourney!
- From the Urban Dictionary:
n. Friend - See Also: son
"I call my brother sun cause he shines like one" - Wu-Tang Clan
- Get the Suns perspective at Bright Side of the Sun.