Down Kawhi Leonard.
Down Paul George.
Now down Norman Powell.
The team has lost yet another key player to an injury: Powell will sit out with a fractured bone in his foot.
But don’t count them out.
The Clippers, someway somehow, have secured a position in the play-in tournament without a single game played with a fully healthy lineup. And they have continued to make noise in the league with multiple miraculous comeback wins — just last month, they came back from a 35-point deficit against the Washington Wizards.
That speaks volumes about the type of coach Tyronn Lue is and the team’s depth — it was a two-way player, Amir Coffey, that has been the team’s scoring motor for a dozen games, for instance.
Now their next test comes in the form of a tough 48-minute battle against the league’s best team, the Phoenix Suns. Right after a just as tough 48-minute win against the Golden State Warriors.
When: Tuesday, February 15 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch/listen: TNT, BSSW-DALBSSC; KEGL/KFZOKLAC/KWKW-LAC
Opposing perspective: Bright Side of the Sun
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Suns: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton
Clippers: Luke Kennard — QUESTIONABLE; Norman Powell, Jay Scrubb, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Suns: Frank Kaminsky, Cameron Payne, Darlo Saric, Landry Shamet — OUT
To Lue’s dislike, however, the Suns do not have much of a flaw in their game: they have one of the best offense’s in the league, shooting an impressive 48.1 percent from the field, boast one of the best defenses in the league, and break opposing defenses thanks to the elite play-making by their All-Star point guard, Chris Paul.
So, to come out of Arizona with a win, coach Lue and company need to get it going early. And some more.
Take, for example, a prolific night from ‘Mr. June’ himself. The Clippers will be that much harder to beat when Reggie Jackson is able to drain shots from deep and beat defenders down the court for acrobatic finishes at the rim.
I also want some more from Terance Mann and Luke Kennard. Both have proven capable of giving the team 20 or even 30-point boosts a night and should be the team’s key to breaking down the Suns’ defense.
Mann can be the team’s bait to drag Deandre Ayton out of the paint for easier looks near the rim. As for Kennard, he and his three-point shot will help the team play with improved spacing, giving the team’s natural slashers and big men more space to create shots.
On the defensive end, Zubac will have a tough assignment in Ayton, who is averaging yet another double-double season (this would be his fourth consecutive season). Ayton can hit mid-range shots and also use his 7 foot 6 wingspans to dominate in the paint.
The Clippers’ backcourt also will not have an easy night off: the Paul and Devin Booker duo are hard to guard, to say the least — both of them have been named to this year’s All-Star team.
Chris Paul plays with a level of composure that allows him to see the game carefully and make passes for his outside wings and centers to score with ease. As with Booker, he can shoot lights out from the mid-range and also finish against multiple defenders at the rim; he’s logging on 25.5 points, 4.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds this season. Maybe the team’s newest addition of Robert Covington can show to us, Clipper fans, why he’s an asset on the defensive end; he said in a post-game interview, “I disrupt a lot of plays...I’ve built my name off of that.”
All in all, the Suns will be a handful. If the Clips want to come back home with a win, they will need to play their best basketball, the kind of basketball they played to overcome a 35-point deficit.