Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
When: 6:00 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Suns: De’Anthony Melton/Mikal Bridges/Trevor Ariza/Josh Jackson/Deandre Ayton
Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Avery Bradley/Tobias Harris/Danilo Gallinari/Boban Marjanovic
Suns: T.J. Warren (ankle) is questionable. Devin Booker (hamstring) is out.
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) and Jerome Robinson (foot) are out
The Suns have been a significant disappointment through the first 26 games of the season. With four rookies on the roster and a bevy of athletic young players, Phoenix was expected to, at the very least, be exciting. So far, despite some weirdly capable stretches (a road win at Milwaukee for example), they have been the one Western Conference layup in a group that has otherwise been termites in a 14-team Jenga game. The Clippers have spent much of the time atop the pile of wood dust left behind. However, Saturday’s troublesome home loss to Miami, including a historically porous fourth quarter, dropped them to fourth place. On a night after Denver and Oklahoma City lost (yes, it’s early December), the Heat debacle was somewhat of a double whammy.
The Suns could be the malady for a two-game losing streak, and losses in three of the past four. The Clippers toppled them, 115-99, in LA on Nov. 28 and things are worse yet two weeks later for Phoenix. Devin Booker will miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury and yeoman scorer T.J. Warren is likely out as well. Suns coach Igor Kokoskov has seemingly gone all-in with the youngsters, starting three rookies and second-year forward Josh Jackson. It’s a group the Clippers must jump on early, something they didn’t do in the first meeting.
This is one the Clippers have to get. The next two weeks include either top-tier teams (Toronto, Golden State, Oklahoma City) or some of the hottest teams (Denver and Dallas) in the entire NBA.
1. Boban Marjanovic: Suns rookie Deandre Ayton admitted getting “thrown off” when the 7-foot-3 Marjanovic faced him in November. The Clippers center went for a dozen points and a dozen boards in 19 minutes as the starter. This time, Ayton will get his fill right away. Teams like the Suns with a traditional center are ripe for Marjanovic to grab big minutes. Despite a major athletic advantage for the first overall pick, Ayton will still likely be thrown around.
2. Jamal Crawford: The former Clipper made exactly one field goal in the previous meeting, but he remains a fan favorite. Even watching from afar will conjure the memories of Crawford’s emergence as one of the most gifted and likable Clippers in team history. Crawford certainly deserves better than a turbulent Tom Thibodeau season and now the worst team in the league in his post-Clippers swan song.
3. Avery Bradley: As much as fans loved Crawford, they are fed up with Bradley. Outside of a outlier first quarter a week ago, Bradley has been a mess offensively. He’s also been nowhere near the elite defender the Clippers hoped, yet Doc Rivers continues to default to loyalty, and it has been dreadful to watch. Few metrics do little to favor Bradley at this point, and absolutely none justify 30+ minutes a night. December 15 cannot come fast enough.
The Turning Point: The Suns allow opponents to shoot 35.3% from 3-point range. That should leave the Clippers’ shooters salivating, they have made 37.5% of their shots from distance, good for fourth in the NBA.
Take Note: The Clippers have won nine in a row against the Suns… it’s the second longest active streak for LA against an opponent (Orlando - 10)... The Clippers also remain unblemished in the Pacific Division (3-0).