|2015-16 NBA Regular Season|
|November 12, 2015 — 7:30 PM PT|
|Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix, Arizona)|
|TNT, Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Chris Paul|
|Eric Bledsoe||SG||Austin Rivers|
|P.J. Tucker||SF||Lance Stephenson|
|Markieff Morris||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Tyson Chandler||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)|
|103.5 (4th)||Pace||101.1 (9th)|
|96.7 (27th)||OffRtg||105.4 (4th)|
|100.9 (15th)||DefRtg||101.7 (18th)|
|-4.2 (18th)||NetRtg||3.7 (9th)|
|J.J. Redick (Back) Out|
While it's likely unreasonable to expect the Pacific Division to come down to any team not named the Warriors or Clippers, the Phoenix Suns are a plucky bunch that can't be overlooked. That said, they're off to a 3-4 start with all three wins coming over so-so teams (Portland twice and Sacramento). The Clippers beat the Suns back on November 2nd at STAPLES Center. Phoenix still hasn't beaten L.A. since December of 2013, a span of eight regular season games. Meanwhile, the Clips have lost three-of-four since their 4-0 start, including last night's defeat at the hands of the Mavericks. It'll be interesting to see how they respond to what had to be an emotionally-draining night in Texas.
This one will go down at Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly known as U.S. Airways Center. Really? Talking Stick Resort Arena? I had to triple-check this to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I'm not sure what's more unnecessarily long between this and Utah's "Vivint Smart Home Arena". What do you even call it for short? "The Stick"?
What's New With the Suns?
There was plenty of drama for Phoenix this offseason, though almost all of it centered around the Morris twins. The Suns shipped Marcus Morris (along with former Clippers Danny Granger and Reggie Bullock) to the Pistons over the summer in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick. The deal served as both a salary dump for the Suns as well as a means of separating the Morrii. The two were involved in some off-court trouble last season, and Phoenix determined it would be best to split them up. The move irked both twins, with Markieff even going so far as to publicly demand a trade on several occasions. However, he showed up to training camp and went on with his business as if nothing had ever happened. So far this season, Kieff is averaging about 14 points and just over five rebounds on poor 36% shooting from the floor.
As for the rest of the roster, the Suns' big offseason splash was the signing of Tyson Chandler. Chandler spent last season in Dallas following several years in New York. While he's now 33 and not quite the same player he was when he won the league's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012, Tyson remains an excellent rim protector and paint patroller. The Suns have played just seven games this season, but their defense has improved with Chandler in the fold. They're allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions this season after allowing 103.4 per 100 a year ago.
Their only other real noteworthy free agent additions were Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer. Leuer has provided solid big man depth thus far in 15 minutes per game, but Teletovic has hardly factored into the rotation. Their first-round draft choice was Devin Booker out of Kentucky, who has also yet to earn regular minutes.
Matchup to Watch
Eric Bledsoe vs. Chris Paul
The Suns have the luxury of the dual point guard lineup with both Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe in the mix. While it may make more sense for Chris Paul to guard the smaller and less athletic Knight, it will still be fascinating to watch CP3 and Bledsoe go at it when they do. Of course, they were teammates for Paul's first two seasons as a Clipper from 2011-2013 before Bledsoe was traded to Phoenix in the deal that brought J.J. Redick to Los Angeles. In nerd terms, it's like watching the Jedi master battle his Padawan whenever CP3 and Bledsoe square-off. They're very different players stylistically, but you can see flashes of Paul's wile in Bledsoe's game from time to time. LAC was able to limit Bledsoe to just 6-19 shooting in the first meeting, but he's been excellent ever since, averaging 23 points on over 50% shooting in the last three games.
Phoenix's offense is centered around their two speedy point guards, though the breakneck pace at which they've been playing hasn't paid dividends as of yet. They're fourth in the NBA in pace factor, but just 27th in offensive efficiency. We're used to the Suns owning one of the league's elite offenses, but they're far from the top at the moment.
The vast majority of the Suns' production comes from the starting unit. The only players seeing consistent minutes among the reserves are second-year winger T.J. Warren and the aforementioned Jon Leuer. Alex Len, who made strides last season, has largely been banished to the bench. In his last four games, he's played seven, 22, nine and 20 minutes, respectively. The two games in which he logged at least 20 minutes were also both blowouts. Veteran journeyman Ronnie Price is the primary backup point guard, and he's given Phoenix decent production in spots.
As for the Clippers, we know the story by now. The revamped bench is still struggling to find a rhythm, and Doc Rivers is still tinkering with the lineup in an attempt to find the right mix. He was good about staggering the lineup to include one of Chris Paul or Blake Griffin at all times during the game against the Grizzlies on Monday, but he then deployed an all-bench unit more than once last night against Dallas. That group struggled mightily, particularly early in the second quarter when a 10-point lead was whittled to just one on their watch. However, it is worth noting that the Clipper reserves played quite well in the season's first meeting with Phoenix.
J.J. Redick was forced to leave last night's game at the half due to back spasms, and he won't be suiting up tonight. Doc has plenty of replacement options from which to choose. If he wants to keep Lance Stephenson at small forward, Jamal Crawford or Austin Rivers would be the natural candidates to slide in at the two. If he slides Lance to shooting guard, either Paul Pierce or Wesley Johnson could be promoted into the starting group.
Game Day Beer of Choice
So, for the Phoenix beer of choice, I'm thinking something that invokes thoughts of the desert. Something rugged and a bit rustic, perhaps. Despite Phoenix being a huge city, a wilderness-themed beer is the first thing that comes to mind. A quick Google search pulls up Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company. Perfect! The beer itself is called the "Woolsey Wild and Witty." Wild? Check. Wool? Sounds PASTORAL.
There was no photo of the bottle, so we'll settle for the nifty glass and the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. shirt, to boot. And here's the description courtesy of Ratebeer.com:
Sour mash witbier fermented in Russian River Sonambic barrels (4 months) with wild AZ Brettanomyces and 100 lbs of oranges from the The Farm at Agritopia. It’s VERY puckering and a great orange kick. Delightful!
I only know what about half of these words actually mean, but "delightful" is a fine enough punctuator for me. Sold!
So, find a way to get yourself a bottle/can/glass/mug/jug/flask of Woolsey Wild and Witty and cheer the Clippers on tonight against the Phoenix Suns.