In the last game of their inaugural assignment to the Jam, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis were strong contributors in a Jam victory over the Grand Rapids Drive.

In the last game of their 2 game stint with the Bakersfield Jam, Suns rookies T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis both continued their strong play and were key contributors in the Jam's 112-103 victory over the Grand Rapids Drive.

The Dignity Health Events Center

As this was the first time a BSOTs staff writer has been to the Dignity Health Events Center, home of the Bakersfield Jam, I thought it would be useful to give a little bit of an intro to the facility for potentially curious Suns fans.

Despite being wedged between the airport, the train tracks and the Coroner's Office, the facility is actually quite charming. The Jam claim the arena seats 550, but if so, I don't know where they hide them all. The majority of fans are seated within 15 feet of the court. About half are at court level in court-side seats, while the other half are seated at tables situated on platforms elevated about 4 feet above the court. An additional group of fans can be accommodated in two second level lounges that overlook the court.

The facility itself is about the size of a small hanger or smaller warehouse. Due to its fairly intimate nature, fans get very up close and personal with the players - during timeout entertainment, I saw multiple children sitting court-side participating in on the court activities. To go along with this intimacy, food and table-service was provided to the fans in attendance as part of their admission.

As enticing as this might sound, Suns fans, alas, the Jam do not currently sell single game tickets. We'll keep you updated if this policy ever changes in the future.

Jam vs. Drive

The Jam's opponent for the night was the Grand Rapids Drive, the solo affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. The full game can be seen here, or in the embedded video below.

This was the Drive's opening game of the season, and it came after arguably their best player, Robert Covington, was signed by the 76ers just days ago.

The Jam were led by strong performances from T.J. Warren, Elijah Millsap, Tyler Ennis and Earl Barron. Warren led all scorers with 32 points, and added 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals for a well rounded overall performance. Millsap contributed a double double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Ennis, in just 33 minutes, scored 19 points and dropped 10 assists, while Barron added 15 points and 12 rebounds, including an impressive 3/5 from behind the arc.

The Drive, meanwhile, were led by veteran Josh Bostic, who scored 26 points and also 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Guards Lorenzo Brown and L.D. Williams contributed 14 and 15 points, respectively, while Hasheem Thabeet added 7 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

The full box score can be found here.

1st Quarter

The first quarter can accurately be described as adjusting to Thabeet. The big man for Grand Rapids established early that starting center Mac Koshwal could not guard him, forcing Koshwal to the bench with 2 fouls after just about 3 minutes of game time. The Jam struggled to come up with a defensive solution to Thabeet, who scored 6 points and had 2 offensive rebounds in the quarter.

The Jam came out shooting poorly, converting just 32.1% of their shots in the first quarter, compared to 50% for the Drive. Warren and Barron were both 2-6, with Barron taking two highly questionable midrange jumpers early in the shot clock. Meanwhile, Jamil Wilson and Xavier Munford were both 0-3. Tyler Ennis found himself in quick foul trouble attempting to guard Lorenzo Brown, something that would be a theme of the night, and wound up on the bench with 2 fouls after playing just under 5 minutes. The lone bright spot in the quarter was Elijah Millsap, who scored 7 points on 3/5 shooting.

2nd Quarter

The second quarter was the T.J. Warren show. After coming out a little cold and timid in the first, and having two shots altered by Thabeet in the middle, Warren hit all of his shots in the 2nd quarter, including two three pointers. He also hit 3 of 5 free throws, and put up 13 points in the quarter. Perhaps more impressive, his solid man to man defense on Adonis Thomas held the prolific scorer to just 3 points in the first half. Ennis remained quiet and hampered by fouls, while Millsap continued his steady performance.

The Drive managed to shoot themselves in the foot largely in this quarter. The Jam weren't playing all that much better than in the first quarter, but the Drive coughed the ball up 6 times in the quarter and shot pretty poorly, allowing the Jam to erase the 1st quarter deficit. The strongest performer in the quarter for the team was Kammeon Holsey, who had 4 points on 2/2 shooting and had a strong defensive presence.

3rd Quarter

Warren continued his strong play into the 3rd, particularly his strong defensive play. This was accompanied by the emergence of Ennis, who finally looked comfortable with Dominic Waters defending him. He hit all but one of his shots in the quarter, including 2 from beyond the arc, and scored 10 in the quarter to go along with 2 assists.

The shooting woes continued for the Drive, as Adonis Thomas could not deal with the smothering defense of Wilson and Warren and hit only 1 of his 6 field goal attempts in the quarter. This was accompanied by a general disappearance of Thabeet, who was taken out of the game offensively because of the general inability of the Drive to execute offensive sets, and defensively because of Coach Nate Bjorkgren's half time adjustments, which included running more pick and role sets with Ennis and the Jam bigs.

4th Quarter

The Jam put the Drive to rest early in the 4th quarter on the backs of Ennis and Barron, who executed the pick and roll to absolute perfection. Barron was able to hit 2 three pointers in the quarter and generally force Thabeet to leave the key, allowing the rest of the Jam players to score at will against the Drive's porous defense. Barron and Ennis combined for 15 points, and with 8 points from Warren the Jam eventually opened up a 24 point lead.

The Drive generally were unable to adjust, and their shooting problems continued throughout the game. They were able to score on their last handful of drives, but this was after the game was largely decided. One of the deciding factors in the game ended up being the disparity in shooting - the Drive shots just 42.9% overall, and just 30.4% from beyond the arc, while the Jam shot 51.9% and 45.5% from 3 point land.

A Brief Interview with T.J Warren

After the game, T.J Warren was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me despite being hurt and requiring training staff attention (nothing serious, I'm assured).

I asked T.J. about his great three point shooting in his two games with the Jam, and whether this had been a particular point of emphasis for him so far in the season.

"Basketball is my job now," he replied. "I'm working on improving my shot alot, from everywhere." He emphasized that he has been taking a lot of shots in practice from 3.

I also asked T.J about his thumb injury, and whether that had fully healed, as a few times in the game it looked like he had aggravated the injury and was favoring the hand.

He replied, "I'm just getting back into the game, getting into game shape." He stressed that it was a process to get back from an injury, and that he was giving it his all.

Finally, I asked how he hoped to use the strong performance with the Jam as he was called back up to the Suns for their 6 game road trip.

"I'm just gonna stay confident in myself and stay ready," he said. "When my name is called I should be ready."

The only excitement in this game down the stretch was the tempers flaring between the teams as multiple players were ejected. On the court the Clippers never let the Suns close as they cruised to victory in the second half.

Recap:

First Quarter:

Giving J.J. Redick rhythm shots probably isn't a good idea. He scored five points in the first 43 seconds since the Suns apparently weren't aware of this. Phoenix started out rebounding the ball well, batting the ball around several times on their way to hoops in the early going. The team looked crisp, led by the play of Goran Dragic. The Dragon had a great euro step that gave the team an early 13-9 lead.  Seeing Dragic being assertive in the early going was definitely a refreshing change.

Score: Clippers 27, Suns 23

Second Quarter:

Marcus Morris was showing off his hustle early in the second quarter by hitting the offensive glass several times in succession. The Suns moxie on the glass was visible. Later in the quarter Gerald Green started looking like he might be ready to have one of those nights. Why does he look out of control even when he's making great plays?

With the Clippers trying to extend a six point lead Jordan Crawford threw himself into a foul at the 7:33 mark. After a ferocious dunk on the other end, Alex Len was called for his third foul with 6:40 left. That didn't stop him as he had a nice move across the lane a couple minutes later for a bucket. It also didn't stop him from recording a career performance on the night.

After trailing early the Suns finally regained the lead with a Len dunk at 44-43. With the game knotted up the Clippers were still forcing the Suns into silly fouls and three second defensive violations. Green hit a three before halftime where it looked like he almost caught the ball midair and fired to give the Suns a 54-52 lead, but Chris Paul retorted with his own bucket to leave the score tied at halftime.

Score: Suns 54, Clippers 54

Third Quarter:

Markieff Morris picked up two quick fouls in the third quarter, giving him four. A 13-3 run gave the Clippers a 67-57 lead, with nine coming by Chris Paul.

With things unraveling, Marcus Morris picked up a technical that gave the Clippers a 71-59 lead. Blake Griffin followed that with an emphatic dunk that extended it to 14 points.

It took less than five minutes for the Suns to put the Clippers in the bonus.  An and-one alley-oop to DeAndre Jordan sent it to 76-59 just moments later. When Isaiah Thomas went to the line with the score 86-64 the Suns had only taken five free throws.

Meanwhile, the Suns gave up 42 points in the third quarter.

42.

Score: Clippers 96, Suns 74

Fourth Quarter:

Bledsoe picked up a technical early in the fourth, which was apropos considering the team's frustrations.

Green and Thomas hit back-to-back threes that pared the lead to 13 at 105-92. Then Green went straight to the rack to cut it to 11. Green had 26 at that point.

After a couple plays went against the Suns, Chris Paul hit a three to make it 111-94.

Then Barnes got ejected. Good for him... and what a shocker.

Trying to get minutes for the Suns four guards?  Hornacek actually played Bledsoe, Dragic, Thomas and Green together with Len to finish the game. He was searching for anything to work. Unfortunately, it was too late.

Gerald Green managed to get himself thrown out at the end of the game while jawing with Chris Paul. I think Paul probably deserved it more than Gerald. But then again, he's Chris Paul.

Final Score: Clippers 120, Suns 107

Player of the Game:

Chris Paul (32 points on 10-13 field goals, nine assists, five rebounds) had the best game of anyone on the court... but he also threw a temper tantrum which resulted in Gerald Green getting ejected.

So I'll give it to Green, who had 26 points off the bench and nearly kept the Suns in the game... while obviously managing to get under Paul's skin.

Comments of the Game:

Game hasn't started in my totally legal online feed.

- Lino Canaan

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Remember when Matt Barnes played here?  I sure don't.

- How is Lon Babby formed?

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Meet and Greet with Matt Barnes?

Who the fuck wants to meet and greet Matt Barnes?

- Lino Canaan

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Tolliver reminds me of that corner on your favorite football team that you know is going to get torched every night.

- Archie Goodwin's Ice Skates

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Kinda feels like the Suns could use a three point shooting big man.

If only they had one...

- East Bay Ray

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I think watching Tolliver play must be the same as when Sixers fans watch their team play.

Just without the whole top 5 pick thing.

- omnicious

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Our strategy is run the shot clock down to get PJ his most efficient play - ISO.

Bravo, guys, bravo.

- jack's complete lack of surprise

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Spencer Hawes taking a break from making moonshine to check back in.

- How is Lon Babby formed?

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Go to the fire, sausage, it's your best chance to avoid a lawsuit!

- HeoYeah9

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Fitting that one of the worst  3 point shooting teams int he league so far

Has a stellar game from three against us..........

- Swishblade

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We're only one guard shy of the Full Guard team.

- KnowGood

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Chris Paul is an a$$hole and I hope he never wins a championship.

- Suns of Anarchy

The Good:

Alex Len had another impressive performance as he continues to grow this season. He had career highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds in under 26 minutes while posing a real problem for the Clippers inside.

The Bad:

The Suns just didn't show up to start the second half. The Clippers went on a 22-5 run to begin the third period and the game was basically over.

The Ugly:

The Clippers really looked like a bunch of bitch-made punks.  That doesn't seem like a team I want going far. Matt Barnes has a face only a mother can barely tolerate, Blake Griffin's knickname should be Kleenex, Chris Paul is officious and arrogant and the rest of the team pretty much lacks any redeeming quality. Interestingly enough, the disparaging comments above about Barnes' lack of character were made well before his early departure.

People can go ahead and cheer for the Clippers because they escaped from the grasp of their evil former owner or because of their downtrodden history, but I'm going to cheer for anyone else to come out of the Western Conference. They're worse than the Lakers.

Final Thoughts:

That mostly sucked.

The Clippers blew out the Phoenix Suns, off of a strong shooting performance. The Suns had numerous players struggle offensively, especially the Morris twins, who combined to score 8 points on...

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Time: 8:30 p.m. MST TV: FSA Name one game where the Phoenix Suns have put it all together. “All,” for these purposes, can be subjectively a 48-minute effort or a well-rounded...

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After stumbling to a 2-3 record on their five game homestand the Phoenix Suns embark on a six game road trip with a pit stop in Los Angeles against the Clippers before traveling across the country for games against Eastern Conference opponents.

When: Saturday November 15, 2014, 8:30 PM local time (10:30 EST)

Where: STAPLES Center Los Angeles, CA

Watch/Listen: TV: FOX Sports Arizona Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

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Last Meeting:

The Suns and Clippers faced off in a preseason game at the STAPLES Center on October 22nd in which starters for both teams logged heavy minutes. LA pulled out a narrow 108-105 victory behind the heroics of Chris Paul (34 points, 9 assists, 4 steals) and Blake Griffin (35 points, 7 rebounds). Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 27 points while Gerald Green chipped in 23 off the bench.

The game was tightly contested throughout and Marcus Morris gave the Suns a one point lead on a three pointer with 1:46 remaining, but Spencer Hawes responded with a layup for the Clippers to give LA the lead for good. Gerald Green missed a three pointer before the buzzer that would have tied the game.

This is the first regular season game between the teams this season. The Clippers won last season's series 3-1.

Team Bios:

Los Angeles Clippers: 4-3

Points per game: 100.7 (15th)     Points allowed: 101.7 (21st)

ORtg: 106.7 (14th)     DRtg: 107.8 (22nd)

Full team statistics.

The usual suspects are still here. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick compose a harrowing starting five. The usual results are not. A Clippers team that surely had preseason aspirations of seizing the NBA's best regular season record has sputtered out of the gate.

The Clippers high octane offense that was first in the league in points per game and offensive rating in the 2013-14 season has been sedately middle of the pack this campaign. LA had some time this week (four days off) to reflect on their shortcomings and work out the kinks since their last game was a Monday home loss (89-85) to the San Antonio Spurs.

Key offseason acquisition Spencer Hawes has been pitifully wretched in the early going. After averaging 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season he is managing just 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds so far this season. His .416 shooting percentage from thee point range has dropped declivitously to .231. Hawes is averaging just 17.0 minutes per game, by far his lowest total since his rookie season seven years ago.

The Clippers may also be adjusting to life without backup point guard Darren Collison, who left the team last summer to take a starting role with the Sacramento Kings. Collison averaged 11.4 points and 3.7 assists for LA last season. The Clippers haven't found a playmaker to take the reins while Paul sits this season, with only Griffin (3.6) and Jamal Crawford (2.8) averaging more than two assists per game.

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Phoenix Suns: 5-4

Points per game: 103.7 (10th)     Points allowed: 103.3 (24th)

ORtg: 106.2 (15th)     DRtg: 105.9 (18th)

Full team statistics.

22 out of 31.

22 out of the Suns next 31 games will be on the road starting with tonight's matchup against the Clippers that begins a six game, 10 day road trip. That is some kind of brutal.

Unfortunately, the Suns couldn't manage to close out the get away game against the Charlotte Hornets last night and finished a five game homestand at a disappointing 2-3. At least the Hornet loss wasn't as vexing as their recent 114-112 double overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings in which the team squandered a multitude of opportunities. Charlotte just played parsimonious defense and executed on offense when they needed to down the stretch. It was actually kind of a clinic, giving an example of what the Suns need to aspire to.

The Suns are still searching for their identity, while sporadically fluctuating in and out of periods of maddening inconsistency.  Finding the right combinations and playing time for the team's four top guards seems to be the biggest stumbling block. Not only does the team have three starting quality point guards (Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe), but shooting guard Gerald Green could start for many teams and is definitely deserving of regular rotation minutes.

To this point, it has been the two reserves, Thomas and Green, who have played a bigger role in the team's early success. In the team's five wins Thomas is averaging 22.2 points per game and Green 17.4. Bledsoe has averaged just 11.8 points in the wins. Interestingly enough, Bledsoe is averaging 19.5 points per game in the team's four losses.

Isaiah has scored 20+ points in all five wins. Eric has scored 20+ points in three of the four losses. Thomas is +13 in point differential (third on the team behind the Morris brothers) while Bledsoe is -7 (worst among the team's rotation players). The team has been better with Isaiah playing and Eric sitting in the inchoate stages of the season. This just doesn't seem like a recipe for success.

Three point shooting, which should be a weapon for the Suns, also needs to improve on both ends of the court. The Suns are managing just .329 from deep this season (18th) after hitting .372 (8th) of their attempts last season.

The Suns are also allowing .368 (21st) to their opponents after finishing second in the NBA in three point defense (.342) last season. In football there is an idiom - run the football, stop the run. For the team the Suns have currently constructed it should be - shoot the three, stop the three. This trend will need to be corrected.

What To Watch For:

Guard play for the Suns is an obvious evolving drama that is worthy of a watchful eye on a nightly basis. The Clippers are one of few teams in the NBA that can stake a claim to being superior to the Suns in this facet (Paul, Crawford, Redick). Bledsoe's body language was bad during the two fourth quarters he sat while Thomas played. Isaiah has been on the record recently professing he still aspires to be a starter. Green is playing for his last big contract. Goran's numbers have shriveled from last season's breakout All-NBA performance. Dragic is in a contract year, too. Eventually this situation may reach a boiling point, especially if the team doesn't enjoy success. Hopefully it does.

The Clippers are dead last in the NBA in rebounding differential (-6.7). They weren't particularly good last season, either, finishing 20th (-.7). The Suns should have a chance to win this battle. How Markieff Morris handles heavy minutes against Blake Griffin might make the difference here.

The Final Word(s):

This is a hard one to call for me. Maybe it shouldn't be.

A Clippers team that is supposed to be better playing at home on four days rest against a team that lost a tough game the previous night doesn't really sound too difficult to call.

Still, the Suns have a lot of players that can heat up and LA hasn't been clicking to this point. Maybe this will be a game where the Suns start to figure some things out.

Maybe not.

Starting off this road trip on the right foot would be huge, though, because the road (and I mean road) ahead is pretty daunting.

I'll reluctantly go with Clippers 113, Suns 106.

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