Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
When: 6:00 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan
Suns: Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Marquese Chriss, Alex Len
Clippers: Danilo Gallinari Questionable (Right Hand Contusion), Avery Bradley Out (Sports Hernia), Jawun Evans Out (Sore Abdominal), Patrick Beverley Out (Knee Surgery)
Suns: Tyler Ulis Questionable (Back), Tyson Chandler Doubtful (Neck), Brandon Knight Out (Knee Surgery), Alan Williams Out (Knee Surgery)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers played hard yesterday in their loss to the Warriors but were unable to get stops down the stretch. Their defense was sorely lacking all game, and while the Warriors are the most lethal offensive team in the NBA, the Clippers still need to execute far better than they did yesterday if they want to make the playoffs. After a slow start, the Clips’ offense was perfectly fine, even explosive. Everyone chipped in on that end (despite some poor shooting), and the ball moved pretty well for the most part. The Clippers will need to bring the same energy and fight they showed last night for the rest of the season. If they do, a playoff spot seems assured.
The Suns are very bad. In fact, at 18-41, they are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the entire NBA. The arrival of Elfrid Payton from the Magic has boosted their offense-- but has not done the same for them on the other end. With Payton, Booker, and TJ Warren, the Suns have a trio of talented playmakers and scorers; they are capable of some impressive performances on offense. The reason for the Suns poor record is that they are atrocious on defense, with teams putting 120+ points on them incredibly frequently. As their young players get more experience and learn the ins and outs of NBA defense they should improve, but veterans with defensive knowledge and impact might need to be brought in this summer for the Suns to make any kind of leap on that end. Tyson Chandler looks largely checked out (and is injured anyway), and without him they lack any rim protection whatsoever. This season can’t be over soon enough for the Suns and their fans.
- Who Starts for Bradley: Avery Bradley is out again, which puts Doc Rivers at a quandary at who to start alongside Austin Rivers. Lou Williams is the best guard on the Clippers roster, yet removing him from the bench would be devastating to the Clippers’ reserve unit. Milos Teodosic started against the Warriors, true. But Tyrone Wallace started the 3rd quarter in his place after a horrible first half from Milos, particularly on defense. As great as Wallace has been, his lack of shooting means he might be better off the bench as an energy booster and defensive presence. The Suns do have scoring threats who can prey on Milos, but hiding him on Payton won’t be nearly as ugly as him guarding Klay Thompson or Steph Curry. I suspect Milos starts tonight, though Wallace getting more minutes than him again would not surprise me at all.
- Does Danilo Gallinari Play: Gallo missed the last few minutes of the Warriors game with a bruised hand, and is questionable to play tonight. His offensive production and defensive competency has been a huge part of the Clippers’ success in February, and his absence would be a severe blow to the Clippers. Wes Johnson would probably start in his place, further weakening the offensive ability of the starters. If Gallo is out, that also means Sam Dekker might get more minutes tonight, and Dekker has not played well in recent weeks. There’s also a chance that Doc Rivers goes small or large, so he doesn’t have to play his weak wing rotation as much, though it doesn’t seem likely. Let’s just hope that Gallinari can suit up and play against the Suns.
- Boban Time: Boban Marjanovic got his first real minutes as a Clipper last night, though it was still for just under two minutes total. He actually played alongside Montrezl Harrell, and such a combination is possible tonight as well, especially if Gallinari doesn’t play. Boban is just so fun, and the Suns don’t have anyone who can even remotely deal with him, so this might be a good choice to unleash him for a handful of minutes.
- Must Win: It’s probably too early in the season to label any game a “must win”, but the Clippers truly need to win all of their remaining games against lottery teams such as the Suns if they want to make the playoffs. Their schedule is very tough, and they must take advantage of the few gimme games that they are given.
Check out the excellent Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun, for their perspective on the Clippers and tonight’s game.