As I'm sure you're all aware, the Suns played their first game since locking up the 2 seed last night in Houston. He played his normal rotation with more or less his normal minute distribution. Marion 40 minutes, Nash, Stoudemire and Bell 34 or 35 minutes. This is not good news for Clipper fans.
Coach D'Antoni wants to enter the playoffs in rhythm. "I don't think it [clinching the No. 2 seeding] is going to change our mind-set. We're going to try to win. We just started playing well. No use in getting away from that."
They've got 61 wins on the season including streaks of 15 straight and 17 straight. Thank FSM they finally started playing well.
The Clippers will likely be playing without Cat Mobley, who left the Sacramento game in the fourth quarter with a strainged calf muscle. Given how he looked Sunday afternoon, I don't really see any way he's going to play tonight. It's a significant loss, for a couple of reasons. Obviously the Clippers are not nearly as deep, especially at the guard spot, as they once were. Also, Cat is one of the better perimeter defenders on the team, and as it happens, you need a few of those against the Suns. Oh, and it also helps to hit some threes against the Suns to offset their advantage there. If Mobley can't go, QRoss will get the start to guard Nash.
It's interesting to note that MDsr has gone away from Ross lately, and seems to like Jason Hart's defense on some of these guys that Ross used to guard. Witness Ross's minutes against AI and CP3 pre- and post-Hart. Of course, the Clippers lost crucial April games to Denver and NOOCH, and AI in particular had a HUGE game, so in retrospect it seems like a poor decision.
(This is the subject for another post, but MDsr's personnel decisions this season are almost inexplicable, exhibiting symptoms of multiple personality disorder. He invests two plus seasons into QRoss, and when the team's defense is at it's worst, drastically reduces his minutes. He beats Corey Maggette down and destroys his trade value, and then inserts him into the starting lineup and boosts his minutes back to 2005 levels AFTER the trade deadline. What exactly is this guy thinking?)
Even though we can expect D'Antoni to play his normal rotation, I suppose there's something to be said for motivation. The Suns in fact do not have anything to play for, while the Clippers season could end tonight. So in theory, the Clippers should be playing with more urgency. In practice, we know that the Suns are consummate pros and will execute as long as a basketball is involved, and that the Clippers season was equally on the line on Sunday afternoon, so I'm not really putting a lot of my eggs in the 'urgency' basket.
It does not mean the Clippers can't win. They will have to get a monster (I'm talking 40+) game from Elton Brand, a big game from Maggette, a boost from Cassell and threes from Thomas. They will have to take care of the ball. Corey has had 6 or 7 turnovers in 3 of the last 6 games (all losses). EB has had 5 turnovers in 2 of the last 6 (both losses). That can't happen tonight. And they will have to have solid defense from everyone who steps on the floor.
The playoffs start tonight. Making the playoffs means going on the road to play one of the best teams in the Western Conference. So this is a playoff game.