|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
|December 26th, 2010, 12:00 PM
|FSN Prime Ticket , KFWB 980 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
After winning three games in a row for the first time this season, the Clippers stumbled and lost at home to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. This afternoon they get another middle of the pack Western Conference team - the Phoenix Suns. It goes without saying that if the Clippers wish to be a legitimate team any time soon, they have to beat these middling teams at home. When these two teams played in Phoenix exactly one month ago, the Suns jumped out to a 25 point lead in the first quarter. That's not a typo - LA was down 25 points in the first quarter. Given that on Wednesday, Houston jumped out to a 16 point first quarter lead, I'd say that a key to this game is that the Clippers not fall behind big early. Heck, it might even be nice if they didn't fall behind at all, or maybe if they even fall ahead. In the first meeting, the Suns doubled Blake Griffin immediately from the opening possession and it really confounded the rookie, who turned the ball over several times in the first quarter. Hopefully Blake is better prepared for the quick double tonight. One big difference this time around is that Baron Davis is back in the lineup. In the first meeting, Baron was still hurt, and Eric Bledsoe left in the second quarter after turning an ankle. Hopefully Baron can help to steady the team against what always seems to be an onslaught from the Suns. Eric Gordon needs to have a good game tonight. Foul trouble and Vinny Del Negro limited EJ to five first half minutes on Wednesday. Let's hope that he doesn't pick up any quick fouls tonight, and that if he does, VDN will have the decency to let him get three in the first half.
The Suns made a massive trade last week, and frankly it's a little hard to figure what they're thinking. They traded away two starters in Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson. Considering that Turkoglu was their major off-season acquistion and that Richardson was their leading scorer, it sure feels like an act of desperation. The team was loaded with wing players before, but the trade doesn't really help all that much, since they two other wings (Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus) back from Orlando, along with Marcin Gortat. Gortat is a nice player, and deserves a chance to play somehwere other than the shadow of Dwight Howard, but the Suns sort of already have a starting center in Robin Lopez. So the lineup still doesn't make much sense post trade - they still don't have a power forward. Getting rid of Turkoglu's contract will save them some money after they get rid of Carter next year, but the trade itself doesn't seem to help a lot. One player who probably likes it is Jared Dudley, who has started at shooting guard the last two games in the absence of Richardson (Carter hasn't dressed for the Suns yet because of his knees). Dudley has scored 27 and 33 points in two games in the starting lineup. Not bad for a guy who was averaging around 7 points per game coming off the bench. But amazingly, the Suns two best players remain Steve Nash and Grant Hill, who at 36 and 38 respectively, should be well into the NBA dotage. Somehow, they're as good as ever. Nash is scoring more than he has in three seasons, while shooting the second best field goal percentage of his outstanding career (over 52%, which is great for a point guard). He's also second in the league in assists. Meanwhile Hill is playing better than he has in over five years - which is just crazy for a 38 year old. He's still the Suns best perimeter defender as well as a sneaky good scorer.
- Out of town. While this game is being played, I'll be on the road to Tahoe for a few days of family vacation. I won't have internet access or even TV up there, so you won't be getting a recap from me for this game. I'll miss three games - this one, Sacramento and Utah - while I'm gone. I'll have previews and threads pre-written for everything, but you're kind of on your own for analysis and other things while I'm gone.
- Dead crowd? Why do I have a feeling that for a Sunday afternoon game, the day after Christmas, the crowd at Staples Center is going to be (a) tiny and (b) quiet? This is definitely one of those games where the home court advantage is going to be limited, especially given how many Suns fans seem to show up to Staples to watch Phoenix.
- Suns setting. Well, we've said it before, and the Suns have managed to remain relevant for longer than most people expected. But it sure seems like this latest trade marks, if not the end, then a milestone on the road to the end for this version of the team. Nash and Hill can't defy their ages forever, and there just aren't any re-inforcements coming in. Having to include last year's lottery pick Earl Clark in this trade had to be particularly painful for the team. I don't know what they're going to do with Nash, who is due to make $11.7M next year. But this team will probably miss the playoffs as presently consituted, and certainly isn't going to get out of the first round in the remainder of Nash's career.
- Slumping Suns. While the Suns and Rockets currently have similar records, Houston came into Staples Center on a winning streak, while the Suns have been struggling lately. Phoenix has lost six of their last eight games. In their defense, they've mostly been competitive, and they've lost to some good teams. But they're definitely having difficulty getting wins lately.
- Three point shooting. The Suns are still among the league leaders in three point attempts, but with Richardson in Orlando, one of their top gunners is gone. Still, against Miami on Thursday they took 26 threes, and made 10. All ten of those came from two players - Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Frye will be a challenge for Blake Griffin as he'll roam around the three point line, drawing Blake away from the basket. Dudley has just been on a roll, but is unlikely to make 7 out of 10 as he did Thursday. There are other guys who can make them - Nash and Goran Dragic in particular - but this is not the Suns team you're used to; they won't have five shooters on the floor.
- Who guards Griffin? Who will the Suns give the assignment of Blake Griffin? Last game they realized that no one on the team could handle him one on one, and they went with the quick double which was very effective. They havemore options in this game. They have the option of putting some length on Blake, in the form of Lopez (who missed the first meeting) or Gortat when he's in. I assume that's what they'll do.
- Rested teams. The Clippers have had three days off since Wednesday versus the Rockets. The Suns have had two days off since their last game against the Heat. So both teams should be well rested, if perhaps a bit bloated from Christmas dinner.
- Gordon. Eric Gordon scored 32 in the Clippers losing effort against the Suns back in November. He'll need to have another big game today.
- Suns domination. The Suns may not have a 17 game win streak against the Clippers like the Spurs had or even 14 like the Hornets had, but they've had LA's number the last few years. They've won nine 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 not play in this game.
- Superstar for one game: Robin Lopez
The sun may set and rise:Sir Walter Raleigh
But we contrariwise
Sleep after our short light
One everlasting night.
- Get the Suns perspective at Bright Side of the Sun.