Could we start anywhere else for this Suns preview?    Phoenix Suns fans have likely spent the last 36 hours frantically throwing salt over their shoulders, high-stepping over cracks and abjectly...

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Will the Suns get back in the win column today against the Los Angeles Clippers? Can the Suns keep their emotions under control while playing with intensity and aggression against one of their biggest Western Conference rivals?

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix, AZ

When: 4:00 pm Locally/6:00 pm Eastern

Watch: Fox Sports AZ / Listen: AZ Sports 98.7 FM

This afternoon, the Suns will attempt to rinse the bad taste out of their mouths after suffering yet another buzzer-beater loss at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Friday night; their third such loss this season...and leading the NBA in this unfortunate category.

For the Suns, this will be the sixth game of their eight-game home stretch, of which they are 4-1 thus far.  It would be a big boost to the Suns' confidence, and also their standings if they can pull out a big win against a very tough Western Conference foe, after a late rally that fell just short against Houston.

As for the Clippers, they are coming off of a 123-84 blowout win against the Brooklyn Nets at home Thursday night, in which they simply dominated from start to finish.  Chris Paul only scored 6 points in that game, but dished out 17 assists getting everyone else on the team going, with Blake Griffin leading the way on 24 points and 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

The Clippers are on a roll, winning three in a row, and nine of their last twelve games.  The Suns will have to come out sharp and focused to get the win tonight, and can't afford to come out playing disjointed and out of sync the way they did against the Rockets, or they will be met with the same result.

Tale of the Tape:

Probable Starting Lineups

Team
Suns
Clippers
PG
Eric Bledsoe
Chris Paul
SG
Goran Dragic
J.J. Redick
SF
P.J. Tucker
Matt Barnes
PF
Markieff Morris
Blake Griffin
C
Alex Len
DeAndre Jordan

What To Watch For:

  • Protect the Paint - The Clippers feature a tandem of the most athletic big men in the league, with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan looking to dunk everything that moves.  The Suns can't allow either to establish position in the low post, or they will certainly pay for it.  While Blake Griffin has improved his jump-shooting, outside shots are still the most preferable shot to force him into taking, and the Suns need to box out in anticipation of the miss, which leads to...
  • Rebounding - The Clippers are actually slightly worse at rebounding than the Suns, grabbing an average of 41.2 boards per game compared to Phoenix at 42.5.  The Clippers' biggest threat in this department is DeAndre Jordan, who uses his tremendous length and athleticism to grab anything he can get his hands on...and is averaging a very impressive 13.4 rebounds per game.  Alex Len, Brandan Wright, and Miles Plumlee need to make sure to get their bodies between Jordan and the basket to deny him a chance at the ball, and let one of the other players rotate down to secure the ball.  If they can keep DeAndre off the glass, they should win this battle.
  • Play Hard, But Smart - The majority of the Suns looked like they were half-asleep during the first three quarters of the game against Houston on Saturday night...Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas being the main exceptions.  Key players either struggled offensively or defensively, got into foul trouble, or received technicals that really cost the team.  Tonight, the Suns need to come out focus and prepared to play with energy and intensity, but also keeping their emotions under control at the same time.  This game is almost certain to get chippy at times, with both teams having a history of altercations and trash talking on the court.  But the Suns can't afford to let their emotions get the best of them resulting in flagrants, technicals, or ejections; or force coach Hornacek's hand in benching them if they argue with the refs either.

Prediction:

Oh boy.  I think this game could end up being a slug fest, both metaphorically, and perhaps literally as well. These two teams just don't like each other, and you can almost certainly expect this to manifest itself on the court in one way or another tonight.  For the Suns' sake, I hope they let their play do the talking instead of their mouths.  Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Matt Barnes are professional irritants who know just how to push the right buttons and embed themselves underneath the opposition's skin.  The Suns can't win by falling into their trap.  Instead, they need to remain focused at the task at hand, and channel their rage through their play.

I expect the Suns to come out with a chip on their shoulder this afternoon after a lackluster performance against the Rockets.  This is the perfect game for the Suns to right the ship and re-establish their winning ways with a statement win over one of their biggest Pacific Division rivals.

If they can remain under control while giving it their all, I expect the Suns to edge out the Clippers in a close one.

Suns win 113-109.




Tonight is the rematch of the Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers. You know, the Blake game.

Let's go behind enemy lines with FlybyNite blogger for our brother site ClipsNation to see "What up, what up!" with those crazy guys who've taken over LA in the void left behind by the Lakers.

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1. How close is Blake Griffin to the teams trainers? If a Suns player grabbed one of our trainers like that during a game, I'd probably be offended on behalf of the guy unless I knew they were close and it was a "bro joke".

FlyByNite, ClipsNation: He has to be close to them. There was some laughing going on after it happened but the guy didn't seem that amused right away. I can't really blame him. I'm sure it all blew over shortly after or something. If he wasn't cool with the guy, then I really don't know what to say. It's certainly not something you'd like to see one of your star players doing on national television during a blowout. Would rather have the star player talking to the guys on the bench and all that stuff.

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2. How is Austin Rivers working out since the trade? Do you see the talent in him - what kind of rotation player can he be this year? Or next?

FlyByNite, ClipsNation: He's been okay. I go with "okay" instead of most other word choices simply because he flashes defensive potential. Even when he was getting roasted by Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in his first game with the Clippers, it wasn't like he was playing poor defense. Great offense beats good defense sometimes. Especially with those guys. He's still learning how to gel with this bench and what he can and can't do with them. He understands his role, though. That's the important part with him. He knows he's here for defense and to go downhill towards the basket. Anything else is a plus. Austin moves his feet pretty well defensively so there is hope that he can at least turn into a rotational defensive player down the line going into next year if he's still here. It is a little worrisome, though, that a guy who was touted as a shooter coming out of both high school and college has trouble making shots and free throws. But maybe that comes later. Maybe.

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3. Phoenix fans don't really like Blake Griffin because of the showboating and whining, and now because of that buzzer-beating three pointer. Is that the most improbable shot you've seen this season from the Clippers?

FlyByNite, ClipsNation: Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. Come on. It wasn't even the most improbable shot of that GAME. Jared Cunningham hitting a running three-pointer to close the first half and getting fouled by Eric Bledsoe? That was the more improbable one, at least to me. I mean, it's Jared Cunningham. I expect Blake Griffin to do unbelievable things sometimes. But Jared Cunningham? I didn't expect him to even know which direction the right basket was. But in all seriousness, that shot by Blake was pretty unreal. The second it hit the rim, I just sat and accepted defeat. The minute it went in, I just laughed at the absurdity of the entire sequence. It was ridiculous. Everything was.

Ed note: Frankly, I prefer this image of Jared Cunningham.

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4. The Clippers are still on track just like last year and the year before, but it seems that the national "shine" has worn off the team in favor of other cinderellas. Has that affected the team, not being the NBA darling?

FlyByNite, ClipsNation: In a weird way, I think it's a good thing that the shine has worn off. Ever since the media got down on them and started pointing out their flaws and lack of cohesion, they just trudged along and started playing better. It was almost as if they played better the second the spotlight got off of them and was placed elsewhere. They're 10-4 over their last 14 games and the losses aren't to bad teams -- minus that Miami game where Hassan Whiteside was possessed by the immortal soul of Wilt Chamberlain -- and the team has played well during that stretch. They're 3rd in Net Rating over the last 14 games and their Defensive Rating of 101.3 during that stretch isn't half bad. I think they're finally figuring out how good they can be. And in reality, they were pretty damn good to begin with. It's just that the bench was so bad that it undermined a lot of what the starters were doing. In my eyes, they're still the same team as last year. They're on the same pace, they're playing the same, and nothing has really changed. I do think it was good that the spotlight got off them, though.

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5. What do you see happening with DeAndre Jordan this summer in free agency? Will the team keep him no matter what kind of offer comes his way?

FlyByNite, ClipsNation: Ultimately, I see DeAndre Jordan re-signing with the team. I don't think they can afford to let him go. I think they throw him close to a max contract. So something like the 4 years and $60 million that Brook Lopez got from Brooklyn a few years ago. Do I think that's too much? A little bit, yeah. But I think that's the going rate for a center with his production and impact. They matched the offer Golden State gave him a while back and I think he knows that they're pretty committed to him. He's best friends with Blake Griffin, loves the city, all the fans love him, and he's an integral part of the entire organization. I see him back next year. There has been some talk, though, of a possible year in limbo where they let DeAndre go, start Hawes, and make a play for Kevin Durant in 2016 but I can't see that happening. It'd be foolish to take that approach. He'll be back.

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There you have it, Suns fans. Justin's a great follow on twitter (@FlybyNite) and I'm not even a Clippers fan. He's got the snark down to the science across all kinds of sporting events. If a big game is on, this guy's live tweeting it.

Also, check out my Q-n-A on Clips Nation, and feel free to check out our brother blog any time. But be respectful. Don't troll. Those are cool folks who love them some Clips, so clearly there's already a disconnect on who's bigger doofus between Tuck and Griffin. Don't make it worse.

The Phoenix Suns continue to cling to their spot at eighth in the Western Conference. Though they’ve won 14 of their last 19 games, they haven’t made a dent in the standings and the...

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The Suns are more encouraged than dismayed by close losses, having won or had a last-minute chance to win the past 20 games.

      
 
 

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