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Clippers at Suns - Game Preview and Open Thread

Clippers
at
Suns
6-4 10-2
US Airways Center
Nov. 23, 2007 - 6:00 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Steve Nash
Quinton Ross SG Leandro Barbosa
Ruben Patterson SF Grant Hill
Tim Thomas PF Shawn Marion
Chris Kaman C Amare Stoudemire
NOTE: I'm still in Denver. I will not get to see tonight's game.  Probably just as well.

The Big Picture:  

The Clippers are coming off their biggest, most enjoyable, and most improbable win of the season against the Nuggets on Friday.  Meanwhile, all the Suns did was put up 80 first half points in the process of routing the Kings.  The Clippers are a surprising and pleasing 6-4, but the Suns remain Pacific Division top dogs at 10-2 and a league high 7 straight.  Still, no one expected the Clippers to break Denver's 6 game winning streak, so anything is possible.

The Antagonist:  

The Suns appear to be as good as or better than ever.  I mean, this is a team with three perennial All Stars, and none of them are leading the team in scoring.  That honor goes to last season's Sixth Man of the Year, Leandro Barbosa.  Amare Stoudemire seems to be fully recovered from minor knee surgery, Shawn Marion is recovered from an off-season bout with underappreciaitis, and Steve Nash is just the best point guard in basketball.  Grant Hill appears to be a great addition.  Basically, the Suns only weakness continues to be an absence of depth - but Mike D'Antoni likes to play a short bench, so as long as they avoid significant injuries, they're going to be a force throughout the regular season and the playoffs.  Speaking of injuries, Raja Bell has missed a couple of games lately with back spasms.

The Subplots

  • They didn't have a chance Wednesday - they REALLY don't have a chance in this one, right?  Maggette is still out.  Brevin Knight is probably out.  And Mobley is still less than 100%.  The Clippers caught the Nuggets on the second game of back to backs on the road.  No such luck tonight.  The Clippers hope to win some games this season by beating teams who take them lightly.  They better hope the Suns are one of those teams.

  • Kaman is option one.  Kaman never started and rarely played much against the Suns last season.  That stemmed from MDsr's tendency to match up to his opponent, rather than trying to force the opposite.  As such, he liked to start Brand and Thomas against Phoenix last season.  Now he has no choice other than to start Kaman, and play him big minutes.  And let's face it - Kaman could have a big game.  The Suns really don't have an answer for him.  We'll see if maybe the Clippers should have been forcing the Suns to deal with the big man all along.

  • Defending Nash and Barbosa.  If Knight can't play, Quinton Ross will have to guard Nash... and Barbosa.  Actually, Cassell and Dickau are going to have to step up and defend against major offensive threats.  There's just no hiding against this team.  

  • Q Ross, offensive juggernaut.  After a season high 17 Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what Ross can do tonight.  We know he'll play big minutes because the team will need his defense.  And he's had big games in the past against the Suns, as they like to put Nash on him and let him roam.  Ross made 3 three pointers Wednesday - he had made 3 total in his first three seasons in the league.  Will he carry some confidence into this game?

  • Wacky cross matches.  The Suns like to play Marion on Cassell.  Nash will be on Ross.  That leaves Barbosa guarding Mobley (assuming he plays).  Grant Hill will be on Thomas; Stoudemire and Kaman will defend each other.  On the other end, Cassell will have to find Barbosa (or maybe Nash, if Ross takes Barbosa), Thomas has to find Marion and Mobley has to find Hill.  This sort of cross matching is a recipe for a LOT of fast break points for the Suns.

  • Exploiting favorable match ups.  As strange as it seems, the Clippers actually have a LOT of places they can go for points in this game.  Kaman versus Stoudemire.  Mobley versus Barbosa (this one is less favorable if Mobley can't play or if Raja Bell can).  Ross versus Nash.  The Clippers beat the Nuggets with only Kaman and Mobley as viable creators on offense.  They actually have more places to go in this one.  If Mobley can play, the Clippers should actually be able to score.  But can they out-score the Suns?