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Clippers look to bounce back against young Suns

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Following a thrashing in Oakland, the Clips head to the desert to try and eclipse the Suns.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

The Clippers were walloped the other night by Steph Curry and the Warriors, but today is a new day. LAC has had several days to lick their wounds and hopefully get things back on track tonight in Phoenix. The Carmelo Anthony trade talk has hit the skids a bit over the last couple of days, though I doubt we’ve heard the last of it before the deadline.

L.A. had been one of few teams to rank in the top-10 in both offensive rating and defensive rating, but giving up 144 points in a regulation game isn’t the best way to maintain such a stellar record. That debacle dropped the Clips to 11th in D-rating.

It’ll be difficult without Chris Paul over the next few weeks, but the No. 3 seed is still very much in play. The Clips sit just 3.5 back of the Rockets for that spot, and Houston has come crashing back to earth since their blazing December. If CP3 is able to get back fairly soon, all hope of nabbing that spot is far from lost.

Catching the Rockets will require winning games the Clippers are supposed to win, especially with Paul sidelined. Tonight’s game against the Suns certainly qualifies. The 15-33 Suns have the worst record in the West, though they have risen up and beaten a few legitimate contenders already this season. Phoenix is 2-0 against the Raptors, and they’ve also beaten the Spurs and the 76ers recently. Considering the Sixers are on the verge of taking over the planet and becoming our new overlords, that’s an impressive tally in the win column for the Suns.

The Enemy

The Suns don’t have a good record and they have a weird hodgepodge roster with a coach they probably shouldn’t have hired on a full-time basis. In spite of ALL of that, this is still a team that can’t be overlooked.

Old friend Eric Bledsoe is quietly having the most productive season of his career. Nobody talks about him because he plays for the Suns and there are a million great point guards in the West, but 21.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.0 boards per game cannot be ignored. He’s struggled to just 31 percent shooting in the two previous meetings with the Clippers this season, but that number is skewed a bit by a brutal 8-27 effort against L.A. in early January.

They also have Devin Booker, who turned 20 in October yet is already an incredibly polished offensive player. He got off to a pretty disappointing start to the season, but he has contributed at least 20 points in each of the last 13 games. The last time he failed to crack the 20-point mark came against your L.A. Clippers on January 2nd. It’s safe to say he’s found a groove.

The Suns are the fourth-youngest team in the league, with an average age of just 25.1. To compare, the Clips are the second-oldest team in the NBA at 29.9.

Not all of the Suns are young, of course. Tyson Chandler is here, for some reason, and the Clips will also get a firsthand look at oft-rumored trade target P.J. Tucker. Phoenix also has another old friend, Jared Dudley, and Leandro Barbosa, though neither seems to really be figuring into Watson’s rotations these days.

Key Matchup

Blake Griffin vs. Suns power forwards

Most teams don’t have anyone that can really stick with Blake Griffin, but the Suns look particularly shorthanded in that area. They have been starting rookie Marquese Chriss at the four spot for much of the season, but he appears to weigh slightly more than Corey Brewer. Griffin should be able to muscle the rook around at will tonight, which could mean additional minutes for someone like Alex Len or Alan “Big Sauce” Williams off the bench.

We’re likely to see a bunch of flailed attempts at defending Griffin tonight, which probably means he’s in store for another parade to the free throw line. That was certainly the case when these teams first met back in November, as Griffin took a whopping 14 free throws and finished with 21 points on just four made shots from the field.

Griffin obviously shoulders more of the load on offense with CP3 out of the picture, and it was good to see him getting some rhythm the other night against the Warriors. He was really the only Clipper to show up that night, finishing with 20 points on efficient 9-14 shooting. He looked rusty in his first game back against the Sixers, but is in a great spot to have a huge game here tonight.

The Fancy Table

Game Day Song of Choice

We tried to change the mojo the other night by putting a few L.A. songs in this space despite our track record of using bands/artists from the city/area of the Clips’ upcoming opponent. Since that didn’t work at all, it’s back to the old style for GDSoC.

Jimmy Eat World is a band from Mesa, Arizona. If you haven’t seen them live, I recommend you rectify that situation. I couldn’t pick one song to put in here, so I’ll just throw a whole show in instead.

The Gin Blossoms are also from Arizona. ‘Memba them? They had two or three songs in the 90s that were bangers. Apparently, they’re still around! Good on you, Gin Blossoms. Never stop reaching for that rainbow.

The Clippers and Suns will tip from the impeccably-named Talking Stick Resort Arena tonight at 6pm Pacific.