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Recap:

In atypical fashion, the Suns bolted out to a quick 9-2 lead. The Clippers regained their composure and took the lead back from the Suns, pushing it to as much as five (24-19) behind several hoops in succession from Blake Griffin (who scored a game high 12 in the quarter). A bookend 12-4 run by the Suns to close the first quarter gave the Suns a 31-28 lead at the end of one. The new starting lineup including Jared Dudley in the place of Michael Beasley got out of the gate much better and seemed more fluid on the court.

The Suns and Clippers played a very competitive second quarter. A rare perfervid performance by Michael Beasley in his new role off the bench was the most coruscating component of the quarter. He finished the first half with 18 points (on 6-8 shooting), 4 rebounds and 3 assists. It was easily his best half of basketball as a Sun. The Clippers went into halftime with the lead, though, at 63-57 behind the play of Griffin (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and Chris Paul (12 points, 8 assists).

The Suns besieged defense found little in the way of relief as they capitulated to the tune of 63 points on 49% shooting for the Clippers. The Suns own offensive explosion kept them in the game, but turnovers (12) and offensive rebounds (12 for the Clippers) undermined one of the best offensive performances for a half by the Suns this season.

Morris came out strong in the third period with 11 points and helped keep the Suns close. Brown also continued a strong performance, but the Suns still trailed for all but a couple seconds of the period and went into the fourth quarter trailing 85-83. The Suns impressive three point shooting continued to be a factor as they closed the third period at 9-16 on the game.

The Clippers turned the beginning of the fourth quarter into a boot parade with a 17-4 run. Luis Scola attempted to stop the hemorrhaging, but to no avail. I am once again left baffled by the incomprehensibility of a team that can play so competitively for 36 minutes and then get ruthlessly blasted for 12. Clippers take the quarter 32-16. These are "your" Phoenix Suns. Guaranteed to satisfy. Clippers win 117-99.

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Player of the Game:

I was actually fooled into thinking this was going to be Beasley at halftime, but then came the reversion to the norm. The Clippers probably had three guys (Paul, Griffin and Crawford) that played at least as well as any Sun, but....

Player of the game goes to Luis Scola. He looked engaged the entire time he was on the court, and was the only one who looked like he hadn't quit when the fourth quarter turned into a huge embarrassing failure. Scola recorded a double-double with 18 points (8-11 fg) and 10 rebounds. Good game Luis.

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Comments of the Game:

I find it annoying that

Gentry still continues to go to a 10-man rotation, when this would be a good time to go to 9.

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This version of Beas is actually super cool.

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Dragic and Beasley

I think it's evident they both work better without each other. It's no surprise given both are more effective with the ball in their hands.

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Why man? I'm not asking for a superstar performance

Just want some hustle

Scola is trying

Morris is trying

JO is trying

Gorts is just out there...breathing

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The only player on this team that I have no quarrels with

Is definitely Morris. The Stupid things he does are just being young. He'll shake dumb fouls and whatnot as he grows. But everyone else is just... I don't know... not winners.

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Barnes with the lefty dunk?? Our D is "so aggressive."

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I can't watch it.

Gonna go do something else. Banging my head against the wall sounds fun now.

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The Good:

Michael Beasley in the first half. This was the Beasley we were all hoping to see in at least somewhat regular intervals. Then "good" Beasley popped smoke like a damn ninja, never to be seen for the rest of the game. Maybe that's not fair, I did notice him making some mind numbing decisions down the stretch.

The Suns offense really showed up. At halftime the Suns were shooting 48.8%, 55.6% and 92.3% from the field, three and the line. At the end of three it was nearly 50%, 60% and 90%. Then the fourth quarter happened...

Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris played well in stretches. Glimpses of improvement from Morris have actually been one of few redeeming qualities for the first quarter of the season.

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The Bad:

63 first half points for the Clippers. 63. The Suns come out with a refreshing, renascent look on offense, but still stumble along to a completely unacceptable performance on the defensive end.

Marcin Gortat kinda sucks right now, and by kinda I mean really. His rebounding donut hole in the first half came in conjunction with an inability to provide any modicum of defensive presence while the Suns were getting victimized inside by the Clippers bigs. He finished with six points and three rebounds and for all intents and purposes was barely a warm body.

Points in the paint. The Clippers score them. The Suns, not so much. A 32-14 disparity in the Clippers favor at halftime blossomed into a full blown 64-32 massacre by the end of the game. On the bright side, many of them were impressive, high flying dunks, so I'm sure that Clippers fans had a really good time.

Dragic was stultified by Paul early and often en route to a paltry eight points, five assists and four turnovers. I don't know if crap play is actually literally infectious, but recently Goran has been playing like a hack.

The Suns defense. I'm sick of talking about it.

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The Ugly:

That fourth quarter was sickeningly pathetic. My dog looked at the tv and started to vomit. These guys (absent Scola) should be ashamed to show their faces in public. O'Neal was lucky to get himself ejected so he didn't have to be a part of that. If they wanted to punish him they should have made him watch the rest of the game in the locker room. Talk about some Charlie Brown pulling the football away bs. Thanks for the great effort to close out the game. I'm sure everybody appreciates it.

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When: Saturday, December 8, 2012, 1:30 PM local time (3:30 EST)

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

First meeting this season. The teams last played April 19, 2012 with Phoenix winning at home 93-90. Jared Dudley led the way with 18 points (including 4-7 from three) and Marcin Gortat had a double-double with 14/14. I can't quite remember, but it seems like there might have been a notable altercation between Dudley and Blake Griffin. It was the Suns last victory of the 2011-12 season, which put them at 33-30, before they lost their last three games.

Team Bios:

LA Clippers: 12-6

Points per game: 101.5 (6th) Points allowed: 94.9 (9th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (4th) Defensive Efficiency: 99.2 (7th)

The Clippers come into the game riding a four game win streak, the last of which was a 22 point blowout of the same Dallas Mavericks team that just beat the Suns on Thursday night. Strangely enough, the Clippers had dropped four straight prior to the current win streak. LA is 8-3 at home this season, but has lost games at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets.

The Clippers are a well-rounded team that is near the top of the league on both offense and defense. In addition to the impressive numbers above, LA shoots 48.0% from the field (3rd), averages 22.4 assists per game (8th), and limits opponents to 43.5% shooting (9th). One of the Clippers only areas of weakness is rebounding, where they rank only 24th in the league.

The Clippers are led by the inimitable Chris Paul (16.1 ppg, 9.5 apg, 2.7 spg) and that dude that got punked by Jared Dudley (17.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg). Paul's totals in assists and steals are good for second and first in the league, respectively. Surprisingly, Jamal Crawford, who comes off the bench, leads the team in scoring with 17.8 ppg.

Despite moderate recent success, they are still the Clippers... which still makes me warm and fuzzy inside about being a Suns fan.

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Phoenix Suns: 7-13

Points per game: 98.2 (14th) Points allowed: 102.7 (30th)

Offensive Efficiency: 100.8 (17th) Defensive Efficiency: 106.2 (28th)

The Phoenix Suns are pathetic wretches.

That's not to say the team has a terminal illness and can't shed their opprobrious title, but the stark reality is that right now this is not a good basketball team. After a loss on "satisfaction guaranteed night" (also known as look at as employing an embarrassing bush league promotional tactic), the Suns travel to LA for a quick stint against the formidable Clippers. Remember when the Suns use to be good and the Clippers sucked? Yeah, that was fun.

Despite the underwhelming nature of the season to date, the Suns have received a solid contribution from.... Pretty much nobody.

Quick notes:

The Suns are 2-9 on the road. Only the Sacramento Kings have a worse road winning percentage among teams in the Western Conference.

The Suns 13 losses overall are tied for most in the Western Conference.

The Suns haven't had the high scorer in a game they've played since the beginning of time November 12th (12 games ago).

Over his last 11 games, the amazing disappearing Gortat has averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He has one double-double over that stretch. It's good to see that Gortat seems to have completely checked out and is trashing his trade value while wanting to be traded (somewhat counterintuitive). At least this means that when (yes, when not if) the Suns trade him the likely return is some expired coupons and a tootsie roll.

Michael Beasley (that is all).

The Suns are 30th in points allowed (dead last), 28th in defensive efficiency, 28th in opponent field goal percentage, 30th in opponent three point percentage and 27th in opponent effective field goal percentage.

While the Suns fail epically in any imaginable defensive metric, at least they are first in the league in missed layups during crunch time....

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What To Watch For:

Dudley/Griffin: With Grant Hill gone and Tucker out, perhaps Dudley will get some bonding time with his bosom buddy. The last couple weeks have been mostly devoid of basketball with any real entertainment value, so some pyrotechnics in this matchup could increase the jollification factor. It would be nice for someone else besides the Suns to look stultified for a change and Griffin is an easy mark.

Defense: Ha! Not really the defense. I just wrote that because you were probably expecting it. This is about rebounding. The Clippers aren't very good at it. I don't see a path to victory that doesn't include the Suns winning this battle, and if the Suns are unrelenting in this task they should.

Pride: Will this actually kick in at some point? Can the Suns actually play engaged basketball for 48 minutes? That should actually be the team's slogan instead of "All for Orange" - "48 Minutes." Except they never play basketball with palpable desire for that long, so everyone would laugh at the tag with derisive mockery.

Paul/Goran Dragic: Goran has had trouble with smaller, quicker point guards this year, so part of me is cringing at the thought of how this matchup might play out today. If Dragic can win this matchup which he can't, it would go a long way toward a Suns upset.

30: Will this finally be the game a Suns goes berserk? I set the over/under at 27 and took the under. That only gives me six more games before my prediction blows up in my face. Kinda like this season so far...

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The Final Word(s):

The Clippers should win this game. Comfortably. They are a much better team and are currently playing much better basketball.

All that aside, for some reason this feels like a game the Suns can win. Maybe just a sense that they're due? The Suns have found ways to lose games recently. I swear to God Gentry is running practice drills where the Suns intentionally miss layups in preparation for late game situations. Eventually the results of these games will countervail the scales of karma. Right?

Then again, a 20+ point humiliating defeat wouldn't surprise me, either.

Oh yeah, also this...

Jared Dudley Punks Blake Griffin (via Ray Anthony)


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"You play and do the best job that you can," head coach Alvin Gentry said after the team's fifth straight loss.

"No is going to quit."

Those are the words of a desperate leader searching for hope, and in the absence of a clear winning formula he resorts to platitudes and promises designed to engender faith.

But faith is dwindling. At the moment, the Phoenix Suns sit at 7-13 on the young season after 20 games. You get an idea of your team after 20 games, and my idea is that these Suns are not on an upward trajectory.

Is there a sense of frustration in the clubhouse?

"There's not a sense," Luis Scola said after the Dallas loss. "It's frustration. Pure frustration. Its not a sense. We are losing. We lost five games in a row. We are just playing bad. There's frustration."

In those five consecutive losses, the Suns had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds of four of them. Three of those shot attempts were layups. One could take those missed layups as evidence that the team is okay, and that shots like those even out over the course of a season.

The Suns have played 11 of their first 20 on the road, a tough task for a young team with a lot of new faces. One could point to the road-heavy schedule as evidence that the team could turn it around with more home games.

But let's pull back the layers a little further.

The Suns have played what amounts to the second-easiest schedule in the league, in terms of opponents' winning percentage to date. Against teams who currently have a winning record (won more than they lost), the Suns are 0-8. Against teams who currently have a losing record, the Suns are 7-5.

During this second-easiest slate of games, the Suns have managed to find themselves down by at least 10 points in 16 of 20 games. I have not done the research to compare to other teams in other seasons, but on the surface this appears to be a bad trend.

"When you are down 15, 16, 19, 27 points, you are going to lose the majority of those games," Scola says wisely (paraphrased from several post-game comments on the topic).

The Suns are 29th in the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) and dead last in total points allowed per game. They allow a league-leading 3-point shooting percentage against them.

That the Suns have only played eight winning teams in 20 games is fortunate and unusual, and about to end. The Suns are entering a very tough stretch of games in December and January - a whopping 19 of their next 26 opponents could have a winning record when they face the Suns.

Oy.

"No is going to quit."

Of course, the coach says this. What choice does Alvin Gentry have here? His job is to win games, so he is going to prod and poke his guys into playing the best basketball they can possibly play.

His job is to get them to ignore the results and play each minute like it's their last. And if guys do quit, they lose their spot in the rotation. Wake up, Marcin. This is your career in the balance here. Same to you, Michael.

The Suns players cannot be worried about winning records, losing records and playoff positioning. They can only worry about today's game, and how can they win their individual matchup.

Gentry can only coach the players he has and try to get them to do the right thing at the right time.

"Disappointed in our ball movement," he said regarding the offense. "When we passed it 1-2 times, shooting was 33%, more than that = 68%."

What about defense, Alvin?

"We gotta do a better job of controlling the dribble penetration."

The Suns have to focus on a few things they can correct with better scheming and coaching. These guys are not going to win games by themselves. The coaching staff has to play matchups and schemes.

Starting today, on the road in Los Angeles against the Clippers, start focusing on small improvements. Focus on player development, but not to the detriment of the team.

But don't lambast Gentry for trying to win games. That's his job, and it's the only job he has.

Don't tell him to play his youngest players the most minutes - that's career suicide for him and morale killing to the team. As long as he has veterans playing better than his kids, he is going to play those veterans. It's up to the kids to win those rotation minutes.

"As quickly as things are going poorly," he said, trying to stay positive. "You can also turn it around. Right now, our goal is to keep playing and turn our season around."

Keep the faith, Alvin.

Los Angeles Clippers 117, Phoenix Suns 99 As Sam Cooke famously sang in 1963, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Those five words are rather fitting for the Phoenix Suns as they take to the road...

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PHOENIX — The third quarter of the Suns’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks Thursday could arguably have been one of the more abysmal stretches for the Phoenix offense this season. The 1-for-14...

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