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Clippers-Suns Preview: Getting Back on Track

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The Clippers came within a whisper of what would have been an extraordinary come-from-behind victory against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday evening. While their rally came up just short, the Clippers have a chance to get back to their winning ways against the lowly Phoenix Suns on Monday night at Staples Center.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
vs
Phoenix Suns

Los Angeles Clippers
February 22, 2016 — 7:30 PM PT
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
14-42 Record 36-19
5-16 East 16-6
9-26 West 18-13
3-6 Division 5-5
10-20 Home 18-9
4-22 Road 18-10
7-28 .500+ 14-16
7-14 .500– 22-3
0-1 OT 4-1
0-10 L10 7-3
Projected Starters
Ronnie Price
PG Chris Paul
Devin Booker
SG J.J. Redick
P.J. Tucker SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Kris Humphries
PF Paul Pierce
Alex Len
C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
98.0 (4th) Pace 96.1 (11tj)
102.4 (27th) OffRtg 108.1 (6th)
109.0 (28th) DefRtg 103.9 (8th)
-6.68 (27th) NetRtg 4.21 (6th)
Injury Report
Tyson Chandler (Shoulder) Questionable, Brandon Knight (Groin) Out, T.J. Warren (Foot) Out for Season, Eric Bledsoe (Knee) Out for Season
Chris Paul (Thigh) Game Time Decision, Austin Rivers (Hand) Out, Blake Griffin (Hand) Out

Season Series (Series tied, 1-1):

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Phoenix Suns by a score of 102-96 in their first meeting of the season, which took place at Staples Center on November 2, 2015.  It was a very different story just ten days later on November 12, 2015.  In that game in Phoenix, the Clippers were soundly beaten, 118-104.  That was the Clippers' fourth loss in five games (after starting the season 4-0).  The Clippers were not sharp, and Blake Griffin was ejected after receiving his second technical foul of the game late in the second quarter.  The team fell apart after his ejection.  Since that game, the Clippers have endured their share of drama with Griffin's controversial hand injury, but they have retained their status as a quality playoff team in the Western Conference.  In contrast, the Suns now have the second-worst record in the West and have experienced no end of injuries and organizational turmoil.  The Suns have lost eleven games in a row, but they did put up a fight against the San Antonio Spurs yesterday, losing by a relatively close score of 118-111.  Simply put, this is a game that the Clippers should win at home.

The Big Picture:

As everyone knows, the Clippers have not had Griffin in the lineup since Christmas Day.  However, they have kept the ship afloat in his absence, going 19-6 without their All-Star and All-NBA power forward.  Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have elevated their respective games in January and February, and DeAndre Jordan has played quite well since losing his usual partner in the front court.  In their most recent game, the Clippers suffered a particularly demoralizing loss at home against the dominant Golden State Warriors.  The Clippers went on a 13-0 run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox missed the game-tying three-pointer.  Paul also suffered a thigh injury and is a game-time decision tonight.

This game will also be newly-acquired forward Jeff Green's second with his new ball club.  As a reminder, the Clippers received Green from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Lance Stephenson and a protected first round draft pick.  Understandably, Green did not look great in his first outing with the Clippers, scoring just 5 points in 20 minutes (2 of 7 from the field).  He did show some nice energy, but he needs some time to develop chemistry with his new teammates.  If Green can quickly become a consistent contributor, the odds seem high that Coach Doc Rivers will insert him into the starting lineup for Paul Pierce, who has mostly been a huge liability on both ends of the court this season.

The Antagonist:

This has been a miserable year for the Suns.  Although they were close to playoff contention the previous two seasons, they are currently the third worst team in the NBA.  In the Western Conference, only the Lakers have a worse record.  This team has battled devastating injuries all season.  They lost guard (ex-Clipper) Eric Bledsoe and forward T.J. Warren to season-ending injuries, and those are two very productive players.  The organization also had to grapple with disgruntled forward Markieff Morris until the recent trade deadline, at which point they sent him to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and a first-round pick.  Not to mention, the Suns fired Head Coach Jeff Hornacek earlier this month.

Key Matchup:

It is too bad that Bledsoe is injured, as the Paul versus Bledsoe duel is always a fun one.  Paul was a mentor to Bledsoe during the latter's time as a Clipper.  Brandon Knight is also not going to play, so the point guard competition is underwhelming.  Perhaps the most intriguing matchup is between Redick and rookie Devin Booker, as both shooting guards competed in the most recent three-point shootout during All-Star Weekend.  Booker is shooting 39.7% from beyond the arc and averages 10.6 points per game, while Redick is making 47.7% of his three-pointers and averages 16.4 points per game.