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Clippers-Suns preview: Battle of the Pacific

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After a bit of a sluggish start for the Los Angeles Clippers, they've had a few days off to rest and welcome in the Phoenix Suns. Clippers are just 1-2 in the Pacific while Phoenix is 3-1. This is an early key divisional game.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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vs
4-3

5-4
November 15th, 2014, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, FSAZ, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
0-0 East 1-1
4-3 West 4-3
3-2 Home 4-3
1-1 Road 1-1
1-2 .500+ 3-2
3-1 .500- 2-2
4-3 L10 5-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Eric Bledsoe
J.J. Redick SG Goran Dragic
Matt Barnes SF Marcus Morris
Blake Griffin PF Markieff Morris
DeAndre Jordan C Miles Plumlee
Advanced Stats
96.7 (12th of 30) Pace 97.8 (6th of 30)
104.7 (12th of 30) ORtg 103.8 (15th of 30)
104.7 (22nd of 30) DRtg 103.2 (17th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Out) Achilles

The Back Story (2013-2014 Season Series: Clippers 3-1):

Date Venue Final
10/30/2013 Los Angeles Suns 107, Clippers 88 Recap Box
3/4/2013 Phoenix Clippers 104, Suns 96 Recap Box
3/10/2014 Los Angeles Clippers 112, Suns 105 Recap Box
4/2/2014 Phoenix Clippers 112, Suns 108 Recap Box

The Big Picture

After losing a heartbreaking game on Monday night to the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers have to pick up the pieces and find out what happened. Long story short, the offense got stagnant and the defense got picked apart in the final few minutes of that game but there are ways to fix it. Namely, go back to what was working. We saw Blake Griffin more aggressive on Monday night, attacking the rim on nearly every play he got the ball. Against Phoenix, that needs to continue to happen.

The Antagonist

The Phoenix Suns haven't gotten off to a blazing start this year but they're off to a respectable one considering they've had to replace sharpshooter, and valuable big man, Channing Frye. They are in their second season under Jeff Hornacek, who led Phoenix to a surprising 48-win season last year. Last season was supposed to be a "tank" campaign for the Suns but they managed to get massive contributions from Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, and a host of other key players that turned them from an afterthought into a dangerous squad to play against night-in and night-out. Right now, as it sits, Phoenix is 7th in the West. But there's a long season ahead of us and Phoenix will be right in the thick of the playoff race for the entire year. Their up-tempo style and great guards are a problem for any team in the league, but more so the Clippers since their blitzing style of defense can create havoc when the ball is out of Chris Paul's hands. Suns will be a problem, even on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics ~ After leading the NBA in Offensive Efficiency last season, the Clippers sit 12th in that department thus far this year. And a year after finishing 7th in Defensive Efficiency, the Clippers have slipped all the way to 20th. Lats year, Phoenix was 8th in Offensive Efficiency and 13th in Defensive Efficiency. So far this season, they're 14th in each category. Two league average offenses versus two league average defenses.
  • The Questionable Blogger ~ Myself and Dave King from Bright Side of the Sun exchanged questions and answers the other day. We discussed how we view our teams, some of the players, and expectations. You can find his answers to my questions right here.
  • Schedule ~ Phoenix will be on the second night of a back-to-back but it also signifies the start of an 6-game road trip that'll start in Los Angeles and make it's way all the way to the East Coast. For the Clippers, this is their first game in five nights but their third straight home game in a string of four home games. After the home stint, the Clippers will embark on their own massive road trip; a 7-gamer.
  • Master versus Student ~ Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe were friends on the Clippers and Paul took Bledsoe under his wing as a point guard. Unfortunately, the salary cap came into play and when Bledsoe was approaching a max contract, the Clippers dealt him away to Phoenix in a three-team trade. Paul likes Bledsoe but Bledsoe definitely wants to take the crown from Paul's head. For Paul, he wants to teach Bledsoe another valuable lesson that the teacher has more tricks than the student could ever begin to know.
  • Twin Towers ~ The Morrii, Marcus and Markieff Morris, are the starting forwards for the Phoenix Suns this year. Due to the departure of Channing Frye, the twin tandem has now firmly entrenched themselves in that unit. Both are playing well this year. Markieff is the second leading scorer (15.1) on Phoenix while Marcus is averaging 10.6 points per game himself. They're the second pair of twins to play together. Mike and Dan Van Arsdale also were on the Phoenix Suns back in the 1976-1977 season. But neither of those twins scored more than 8 points per game that year. The Morrii are most likely going to do that for the second year in a row.
  • Isaiah Thomas X-Factor ~ It's not a stretch to say that Isaiah Thomas has been the Suns best player thus far this year. The fact that Phoenix was able to nab him as their Sixth Man says a lot. He came at a reasonable price and Phoenix has used him beautifully. In fact, Hornacek has rolled with Thomas over Bledsoe late in a lot of games to start the year. It says a lot.
  • Griffin v Tucker, Round 2 ~ On March 10th of this year, but last season, Blake Griffin and P.J. Tucker got tangled up and engaged in a little bit of a wrestling match on the STAPLES Center floor. While down there, Tucker hit Griffin with a right cross that would have made some boxers proud. Griffin got enraged, rightfully so, and the two continued their scrum until players and refs separated them. Tucker got ejected for it. Tonight, they meet yet again. This is their first meeting at STAPLES Center since that incident.
  • Blake Griffin's Aggressiveness ~ Through the first 6 games of the season, Blake Griffin had attempted just 48 shots from inside 8 feet. Against the Spurs on Monday night, he attempted 13 of his 17 shots from inside 8 feet. There was talk that he'd start being more aggressive and getting back to his old self offensively. He did. It was nice to see. Against Phoenix, who lack superior shot blockers and are now without Channing Frye, who managed to always do a good job against him, Blake Griffin can surely be aggressive yet again and look for his offense around the rim rather than hover out into the long-two sections.
  • The Flu ~ Some Clippers players have been battling the flu over the last week or so. Namely, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. There's no word yet on if any of the other players have been struck by it but there's been a few days off in a row so if it did hit them, they could already be on their way to feeling better. The flu is no joke. I'm sure we've all had it at some point in our lives and we know how much it sucks. Hopefully the locker room is over it and can play at a high level on Saturday night.
  • Connections ~ There's obviously the whole Bledsoe-used-to-be-a-Clipper thing but there are a few other connections. Clippers small forward Matt Barnes spent the 2008-2009 season with the Phoenix Suns and Clippers reserve forward Hedo Turkoglu was traded by Toronto to Phoenix back in July of 2010. He spent a few months in Phoenix before the Suns dealt him to Orlando in December of that year. The Morris twins (Kansas) and Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) would have played against each other one time in college but Griffin missed the game due to a concussion. Isaiah Thomas and C.J. Wilcox both went to the University of Washington. Thomas hit the game-winner in the Championship Game of the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament. That game took place at STAPLES Center.
  • Wikipedia Entry ~ I hope I'm right when I say I'm confident that we all know what the sun is. It's the star at the center of our solar system and was formed around 4.567 billion years ago "from the gravitational collapse of a region within a large molecular cloud." The sun is also white, not yellow/orange. We view it as such because of atmospheric scattering of blue light. The UV light from the sun gets attenuated by the Ozone Layer, which means the amount of UV changes based on the latitude, and it's one of the main reasons for the variations in human skin color in different areas around the globe. As for Phoenix, that's a mythological bird that arises from the ashes upon death where it is reborn and made anew.
  • Bright Side of the Sun ~ To get the Phoenix Suns perspective on the game, you can head on over there and discuss it with them.