Yeah, we are going there... At least we didn't give out Christmas Presents!

This time of year everyone is going to be writing themed stories, using corny clichés, and using the season as a way to write lazy stuff. We are no different.

A new year is upon us and it is time for us to see what the Phoenix Suns' (19-11) resolutions need to be. What does the team that has everything (that they didn't expect to have) need to strive for in the new year? Everyone looks in good shape, so losing weight is out of the equation. Hopefully nobody smokes and going back to college is not really high on the priority list. What to resolve... What?

Enough of me, let's get to what matters. The staff takes some New Year's Resolutions for the Phoenix Suns. Here we go.

Twenty-Fifth Topic: New Year's Resolutions

1. Breaking the Ice: What should the New Year's Resolution be for the entire whole of the Phoenix Suns franchise?

Jim Coughenour: To continue to make forward progression and not stand pat. This franchise has literally transmogrified from what many predicted to be a hopeless failure for years to come into possibly the most renascent team in the league. That momentum can't dissipate.  The team needs to be just as aggressive and innovative this year, if not even to a higher degree, to get to where we all want them to be.  Winning a championship is damn hard work (obviously we have experience in just how much a team can do and still fail) and I want to see more blood, sweat and tears.

Jacob Padilla: Win a darn championship. They've done pretty much everything else. They've had All-Stars, MVPs and Hall of Famers. They've won a heckuva lot of games and have used a highly entertaining style of basketball to win a lot of them. Now all that's left is the big one. It's probably not going to happen this year, but with Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek running the show I'd like to think the Suns will have a shot sometime in the next few years.

Dave King: Win with the kids and retreads! Don't sell out by acquiring a bigger talent for the sake of a playoff run. This team can win without a single deal to "improve" and shouldn't do anything to screw up the chemistry.

Kris Habbas: To stay the course. They have cleared house and brought back a sense of pride, resolve, and a new (back to the old) culture that is conducive of a winning franchise. They have a great young coach, general manager, and overall front office that are working together to make this a respected franchise. Stay the course.

2. Who on the roster needs a New Year's Resolution the most right now? What is the resolution?

DK: Markieff Morris. He needs a resolution to never, ever go back to the player he was in his first two NBA years and to commit to becoming the best version of the player he's become now: good on offense and rebounding, and not embarassing on defense. Kieff's ceiling is still higher than today's player IF he keeps going down this road.

KH: Alex Len. A resolution to find some resolution with his ankle injuries so he can get back on the court. Not for the team, they do not need his production to win games as we have seen, but for him in general it would be nice to put one healthy foot in-front of the other on the court again.

JC: Eric Bledsoe. Despite the general infatuation many fans have with him I still want to see more.  At the end of the season the Suns will likely be faced with moving him or maxing him.  Right now he's providing slightly less production than our other point guard who makes just $7.5 million.  I would just like him to crystallize the situation.  Over the last 7 games, nearly a third of his 24 games, he is averaging just 14.3 points and 4.4 assists...  If he finishes the season at about 16.5 and 5.5 the decision becomes somewhat nebulous.

3. In 2014 what do the Suns need to do better?

KH: Dress better. Look, I get to go in the locker room with these guys before and after every game and either I have no idea what fashion is or these guys are taking it to a near Lady Gaga level. I am the first to admit I am no fashionista, but man leather is not meant to be worn that way Archie Goodwin! Pants should not come in that color P.J. Tucker! Turtlenecks are great and all, but Miles Plumlee rocking one in Arizona seems extreme! Whatever happened to a nice suit? Or some dress jeans, a shirt, and a jacket? Man, I am getting old.

DK: (Kris, you really don't have any idea what fashion is) What the Suns need to do better in 2014 is get better at post-game interviews. Bledsoe and the Morrii need speech inflection coaching. Dragic, Frye, Green, Tucker and Plumlee are good in interviews, but the younger guys need some work in that area. And as the season progresses, their gonna be asked to do a lot more interviews.

JC: Everything.  Nothing wrong with striving for improvement.  This isn't a sport for resting on laurels.  If you like being an indolent sluggard there are a sh&%load of McDonald's looking for fry cooks.

JP: The non-wardrobe related answer is attention to detail, particularly on defense and on the glass, but that extends to offense as well. Rotations need to be crisper, everyone on the team (minus Goran who has license to leak out as often as he likes) needs to be more disciplined with their box-outs and with pursuing the ball and guys need to play in the flow of the offense and to their strengths. The Suns are playing well but there are still plenty of little things that can and need to be cleaned up if the Suns are going to continue to get better as opposed to regressing.

4. Can a change (Resolution) result in a drop-off of what they are already doing well? If that is the case, do they need one?

KH: Yes. A change in attitude and direction can easily throw things off course for any team let alone a young team like the Suns. If they try to make radical changes, say to the gameplan, there could be a ripple effect. Using defense as an example, if the Suns try too hard to be a better defensive team they might lose some steam on offense which is the reason why they are 18-11 right now. Change can be good, improvements are always welcome, but they can come with a cost like the butterfly effect.

JC: No need to Terry Porter this team by trying to coerce them into being something they're not.  With the job that Hornacek has done so far I have the utmost confidence that he can make whatever tweaks are necessary, and possible, without disrupting the balance he has achieved so far.  Then there's the McMiracle factor.  I still don't think he'd have any trepidation over pulling the trigger on any move (at any moment) that he feels makes the team better in the bigger picture.

JP: Perhaps, but the Suns don't need any dramatic changes. A little more effort here, a little more focus there and they will be right where they need to be.

DK: Notice I took Jim's suggestion that fixing one thing can hurt another, and didn't point out in the earlier answer about the rebounding. Jim's right that fixing one thing can hurt another. I just hope they DON'T change something for the sake of change, because it could hinder the team. But adding Len/Okafor to the backup C position would be a good move, still.

5. How have the expectations changed for the team after winning 18 of their first 29 games?

JC: I still have none.  Obviously the team is a hell of a lot better than I (erroneously) predicted at the beginning of the season, but I'm not certain what their ceiling is anymore.  They've left me nonplussed at every turn, so why shouldn't I expect more twists and turns the rest of this season and throughout the year.  So I guess maybe I expect to be surprised?  Either way, this has been a lot of fun so far and I'm just really enjoying Suns basketball.

JP: The expectations have changed from none at all to expecting the team to be a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. That's exactly how the Suns are looking at it, and as Dave just wrote, defensive improvement is the key to getting there.

DK: LOL heck yeah. In my other article this morning, my new ceiling for this team is the WCF. That's right. The Conference Finals. No one wants to play the Suns. The last three consecutive opponents, two of them playoff teams, have changed up their rotation to field two PGs at once. Now that the Suns are forcing other team's out of their comfort zone, you know their reputation precedes them. Finally.

KH: The expectation is that the Suns are better than initially thought so it is time to change the conversation to that of a potential playoff team. That is how they should be perceived by the fans, by the media, and by themselves internally going forward. They have to beat bad teams. They need to prove themselves against their peers in the standings. And they have to rise to the occasion against the Championship Contenders. Good?

BONUS: What is your personal New Year's Resolution?

JC: Maybe I will write a book.  I'd like to hone my talents in the sports I play.  Do well in school.  Try to be the best parent, husband, friend, etc. that I can be.  I could go on.  I don't necessarily make New Year's resolutions, but it's a natural time for me to reassess where I stand in life and how I'm progressing.  I'm really good at getting busy and forgetting things, so reminders are always helpful.

I've already covered enough on the Suns (insert random Kevin Love mention to screw with Kris), but for BSotS I hope we can continue to bring the quality content that (I hope) makes us one of the best sites providing Phoenix Suns coverage. And just like the Suns, I hope we can continue to improve to make things even better and become THE premiere platform for all that is Suns basketball.  Special thanks to all of you readers that make this place so great, and possible for that matter.  Happy New Year everybody and go Suns!

JP: I don't make New Year's resolutions. I'd like to think I'm awesome as is, but even if that's not the case I'm too lazy to change it.

DK: I gave this in the other article as well: stop selling the team short. I won't sugarcoat anything, but I no longer predict a disappointing win total. WCF!

KH: I am not a resolution guy on January 1st, but I make decisions to change my life for the positive when need be. If I want to lose weight in August I am not waiting until January to start. You know?

Bright Siders, what do you think? What is your New Year's Resolution for yourself, for the Suns, and for BSotS? (Please do not say Kevin Love)

After everyone and their sister predicted the Suns would bottom out this season, we're all being forced to accept the Suns as they really are: winners. Playoff caliber. Able to beat a Finals hopeful by 19 on their own court.

The year started with some of the darkest days in Phoenix Suns history, but it ended with a dominating 19-point win over the 21-12 Clippers IN LOS ANGELES!

"They just kept pushing it at us," [All-Star Chris] Paul said. "I don't think they caught us off guard. We knew how they were going to play. They hit us in the mouth early, and they just dominated us through and through. Luckily it only counts as one loss."

"This is a tough one for us," Paul said after the game. "It might have been one of the worst ones since I've been here."

After blasting the Clippers, the Phoenix Suns are now 19-11 on the season, with a robust 8-7 road record and a 6-5 record against the West's other 7 playoff seeds. Home court has become a haven again, with a whopping 11-4 record in front of their fans. The only two West playoff teams the Suns have not yet beaten are Oklahoma City and San Antonio, though the Suns went into the final minutes against both of them with a chance to win.

The Suns have two 18+ point scorers for the first time since 2010. They're 9 games over .500 for the first time since 2010. They're... everything good for the first time since 2010.

We're all a bit flabbergasted with what's happened in Phoenix this year. It's like all the good karma from the past three years was locked in a basement storeroom of US Airways Arena until a 33-year old aspiring Exec of the Year stumbled on the door, thought "hmmm, I wonder what's in here" and forced the door open.

BOOM! Three years' worth of good feelings have washed over the arena, taking the entire franchise for a ride.


Let's do a rewind, and go back to what some people had to say about the Suns as recently as October:

Bill [Simmons, on Grantland's preseason 'League Pass Watchability' rankings]: If I watch more than 75 total minutes of the Suns this season, I'm gonna feel like I failed. Congratulations, Robert Sarver - you did it again.

Zach [Lowe]: Ouch. But Eric Bledsoe is going to get starter minutes! And Jeff Hornacek is going to have them run! And they have that horrible court redesign that makes them look like they are permanently playing on Halloween!

Bill: Your love for horrible court redesigns almost rivals your love for Swin Cash and mascots. For the record, I watched Bledsoe up close for three years at Clippers games. Phenomenal athlete, destructive defender, great energy guy off the bench ... and if you're turning your offense over to him, in the words of Baby Doll Dixon, "I wish you a lot of luck."

Well, Bill watched 48 minutes of Suns basketball last night alone so he must have failed at something. Maybe where he failed was ignoring the concept that a young team running up and down the court HAD to be more interesting than half the NBA even if they'd gone 20-62.

Simmons has been quietly silent (I'm a wordsmith, can't you tell?) on the Suns turnaround, likely after having lunch with Chad Ford recently where they decided to skulk in the shadows until the Suns finally collapse so they could jump back out and shout triumphantly "I told you so!"

Last night he was forced to give a tiny nod in the Suns' direction:


Remember though, that this feel-good crap regarding the Suns has been relegated to a 140-character-limit medium. This from a guy who can write 4,000 words on what's going through his head on any given day without a single hand-cramp. But hey, it's a start.

Preseason, Yahoo! Sports gave the Suns a 16-66 record.

ESPN gave the Suns 21 wins in a number of ways:



In fact, the most bullish national media dude on the Suns in the preseason was Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and He liked what he saw in the summer and preseason and predicted an exciting team to watch. Yet he still predicted tons of losses.

But hey, so did I.

I, myself, a 30-year-long Suns fan who somehow predicted 54 wins in 2010-11 (Suns won 40) and 46 wins 2012-13 (Suns won 27), dropped a genius prediction of 20-25 wins this season during our preseason Google Chat. Out of 82 games!

But at least I said the Suns would be fun to watch, and that Bledsoe and Dragic could play well together, and that I really, really liked what Hornacek and Longabardi could bring to the team. Click the link for proof.

How did many of us see the positive signs over the summer, yet still predict doom and gloom?

For one, I claim being caught up in "the plan". Clearly, the Suns had planned to tank the season for a top pick in 2014.

McDonough had spent the summer trading away veterans who would have started for this team (Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat) in favor of backups and bench warmers who'd never done anything in the league (Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, Ish Smith, Slava Kravtsov, Gerald Green).


McD also hired a rookie head coach.


They told their most talented acquisition - Emeka Okafor - to go home and rehab his neck injury on his own time.


In the process, the Suns had lined themselves up with 6 first round picks over the next two Drafts, making no bones about the fact that every deal was centered on future prospects and youth, not established talent.


I thought I was doing the Suns a favor by predicting no better than a 25-57 record. I ignored the optimists who said the guys who'd gone 7-1 in Summer League and 5-2 in preseason couldn't possibly be that bad.

I told myself that the more I liked McD and Hornacek and the staff, the more I bought into the 60-loss "plan" rather than buying into a potential 60-win season.

I somehow told myself the Suns would be fun to watch, but would manage to lose anyway. The perfect storm would be competitive losses all season long, like Orlando had done a year ago to get the #2 pick this spring. I completely ignored any potential for a strong playoff run.

Because how in the world could Miles Plumlee (55 total NBA minutes before this season), Eric Bledsoe (never played more than 22 minutes a game), Gerald Green (out of the LEAGUE three years ago), Channing Frye (lucky to be alive), and Goran Dragic (his best NBA moment had occurred in 2010!) lead the Suns to the promised land of a playoff run? How???

Now, I'm discombobulated. As much as I want to blast guys like Simmons, Ford, Stein and all the others that went on laughing at the Suns and predicting doom and gloom even after the hot start, I realize I was one of them. Sure, I didn't laugh outright. And I didn't say stupid things that would come back to haunt me.

But I did predict a terrible record.

My bad, Suns. Please forgive me.

For my New Year's Resolution, I promise to try harder not to sell this team short. That doesn't mean I am putting on purple-colored glasses and ignoring their faults. I won't do that. I'll still call it like I see it.

But my ceiling for this team in 2013-14 is now the Western Conference Finals. A long shot, to be sure, but if they can keep this energy and style going no one will want to face them in the playoffs.

There may not be an All-Star in the bunch, but damn are they coached well and fun to watch. We might not get any All-Stars, but many other awards could go the Suns way: Coach of the Year (Hornacek), Executive of the Year (McDonough), Most Improved Player (any of 3-4 guys), Sixth Man of the Year (Green or one of the Morrii) to name a few.

So, even though I sat at the same table as Stein, Moore and Simmons in the preseason, I can pull out my 30-year old fan card and say "Eat it, you idiots!" (and then take a bite of humble pie myself).

The Suns blew out the Clippers in LA, 107-88, in their last game of 2013...and their best.

The Phoenix Suns played their best game of the 2013-14 season to defeat the Clippers 107-88 in what could be called a "statement game" for Phoenix. And frankly, the game wasn't even as close as the final score suggests.

The story entering the game was Eric Bledsoe's return to LA against his former mentor and team, Chris Paul and the Clippers. However, it was Goran Dragic who (literally) stole the show right from the get-go. By half-time, Dragic had 20 points, 4 assists, and 5 steals to lead the Suns to a 61-40 lead at the break. Dragic's play was a sight to behold, as he carved up the Clippers defense repeatedly and got whatever he wanted. Simply put, it was a fitting game to cap the Year of the Dragon.

The Suns opened the game with a 9-0 run and never looked back, as the Clippers just seemed a step slow the entire night. Phoenix's first points of the game came on a breakaway dunk by Dragic, and that fit the theme for the night. Dragic finished the quarter with 13 points and the Suns held a 30-24 lead after the first quarter.

The second quarter might have been the best period the Suns have had on both ends of the court. Behind fantastic play from Gerald Green and Dragic, along with some stymying defense on the Clippers, the Suns outscored 31-16 in the second quarter and took a 21 point lead into halftime.

The Suns didn't cool off one bit after halftime, as they continued to expand their lead and turn this game into an absolute disaster for the Clippers. Channing Frye led the way with a trio of threes in the quarter, leading fans to wonder if perhaps Green had passed the torch to Frye at halftime. However, Green proved that he wasn't done either, continuing his torrid shooting from the first half. The Suns won the quarter 27-19 and carried a 29 point lead into the fourth.

The fourth quarter was almost entirely "garbage time," as both teams realized quickly that the game was completely over. The Clippers reserves managed to cut the Suns' lead with a 29-19 quarter, resulting in a final score of 107-88. Dionte Christmas did manage to shine in this meaningless period, posting 7 points on 3-4 shooting in less than 6 minutes.

Final - 12.30.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Phoenix Suns 30 31 27 19 107
Los Angeles Clippers 24 16 19 29 88

Complete Coverage >

Key Performances

  • The Dragon: this was the best start-to-finish performance for Goran Dragic, which led to him not playing a single minute of the fourth quarter. Still, Dragic finished with 28 points (on 10-15 shooting from the field), 8 assists and 5 steals in 31 minutes. He also had the highest +/- of the game with a +27.
  • Gerald Gr33n: Gerald Green was unconscious tonight, seemingly hitting everything he put up. Hornacek has given him the greenest of lights (pun absolutely intended) in this offense, and Green hasn't been shy about taking his shots. He took (and made) several pull-up threes on the break tonight, yet they never once felt like bad shots. That says a lot about how well he has fit into his role on this team.
  • PJ "Padlock" Tucker: PJ Tucker had a solid all-around game, finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.
  • Professor Plumbledore: Miles Plumlee only played 21 minutes tonight, but he ended up with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Miles Plumbledore even got the better of Blake Griffindor by blocking him on more than one occasion (Griffin had his shot blocked 5 total times).
  • Channing FYRE: Frye played great defense on Blake Griffin tonight, bothering him all night was some savvy post defense. Griffin, fresh off a 40-point performance against Utah, only scored 15 points on 5-15 shooting.
  • Chief Kieff: Markieff Morris came off the bench to provide 11 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and some solid defense in 30 minutes. He played a role in Phoenix's big second quarter run and had a strong showing tonight.

Overall, this was definitely the best performance of Suns' season. After a brutal road loss against another division foe, the Golden State Warriors, just two games ago, the Suns turned in a fantastic all-around performance against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. And this was with Bledsoe having a subpar game (7 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) in his return to Staples Center to face his former team.

The Clippers shot less than 37% from the field and had 20 turnovers (Phoenix recorded a season-high 17 steals). Chris Paul had 11 points on 14 shots and really, no Clipper had a very good game. Jamal Crawford was inefficient as well but Jared Dudley managed to score 9 points on 3-5 shooting. DeAndre Jordan only scored 2 points (on just 2 shots) but corralled 19 rebounds.

Let's see some Twitter reactions to the game:

Chris Paul said this was probably his worst loss as a Clipper.

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 31, 2013

Chis Paul called the blow out loss to the Suns, "an old fashioned butt whoopin'."

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 31, 2013

Tonight was a good win. Not because of the score but because we played hard, unselfish, and together. We have to continue to stay hungry.

— Channing Frye (@Channing_Frye) December 31, 2013

There is some serious Stockton inside of Dragic.

— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) December 31, 2013

Great win on the Road today against a Tuff clipper team....Let's keep it Rollin!..#SUNS

— Dionte Christmas (@Dchristmas22) December 31, 2013

Great effort from start to finish for our guys tonight. Gotta keep it up if we want to be a playoff team. @Suns #IgniteTheFuture

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) December 31, 2013

Enjoy this victory, Suns fans. No matter what, just remember to be grateful that the Suns went from Lance Blanks, Lindsey Hunter, and Michael Beasley to Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek, and Eric Bledsoe all in the same year.

Hope everyone has as much fun with the end of 2013 as the Suns did tonight. And here's to a great 2014 for the Suns and for all of us!

The future is bright. Ignite it.

The game started with a 9-0 Suns’ run and ended with a Slava Kravtsov dunk. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Phoenix’s impressive 107-98 win over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples...

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The Suns travel to Hollywood to battle the Clippers in a match-up of the Pacific Division's top two teams. Yes, you read that right.

Tonight, Eric Bledsoe will face his former team for the first time as the Phoenix Suns (18-11) face a tough road test against the LA Clippers (21-11). The Clippers are the leaders of the Pacific Division and are owners of the 4th-best record in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Suns have the second-best record in the Pacific and the 6th-best of all teams in the West.

Believe it or not, this game could very well prove to be an important division match-up with playoff implications down the road. Raise your hand if you thought you'd be saying that about this Suns team before the season began. Now take that hand, pat yourself on the back, and slap me across the face for thinking this team would be among the worst in the league.

Who: Phoenix Suns vs. LA Clippers

What: A division match-up between two teams vying for playoff berths

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: 8:30 PM AZ Time (7:30 PM PST/10:30 PM ET), December 30, 2013

Why: Eric Bledsoe faces Chris Paul and his old teammates for the first time since being traded to Phoenix.

The Opponent

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Blake Griffin 32 36.6 8.3 15.9 52.4 0.2 0.5 37.5 5.1 7.3 70.0 2.3 8.3 10.6 3.1 2.9 1.1 0.7 3.4 21.9
Chris Paul 31 35.3 6.8 14.7 46.4 1.2 3.5 33.3 5.2 5.9 87.0 0.6 4.1 4.7 11.4 2.5 2.5 0.1 2.5 19.9
Jamal Crawford 32 29.7 5.9 14.1 41.9 2.2 6.0 35.9 2.8 3.4 81.7 0.4 1.9 2.3 2.5 2.0 0.8 0.2 1.5 16.8
J.J. Redick 17 28.2 5.4 11.8 46.0 1.9 5.4 35.9 3.0 3.2 92.7 0.4 1.8 2.2 2.0 1.0 0.9 0.2 2.2 15.8
DeAndre Jordan 32 35.3 3.8 5.8 64.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 4.4 40.0 4.1 9.2 13.3 0.8 1.5 1.0 2.3 3.4 9.3
Jared Dudley 32 29.1 3.3 7.6 43.6 1.3 3.8 34.1 0.7 0.9 72.4 0.5 1.6 2.1 1.5 1.0 0.7 0.1 2.6 8.6
Darren Collison 32 18.1 2.8 6.3 45.0 0.6 1.6 35.3 1.8 2.2 81.7 0.5 1.5 2.1 1.8 1.2 0.8 0.2 1.6 8.1
Matt Barnes 13 19.8 2.1 5.3 39.1 0.7 2.4 29.0 1.5 1.9 76.0 0.9 2.8 3.8 1.7 1.2 0.9 0.5 3.2 6.3
Willie Green 20 16.8 1.7 5.2 33.0 0.8 2.4 31.3 0.7 0.9 77.8 0.2 1.2 1.4 0.8 0.5 0.3 0.3 1.5 4.9
Antawn Jamison 16 11.5 1.4 4.3 32.4 0.4 1.7 25.9 0.7 1.1 61.1 0.4 2.3 2.7 0.2 0.4 0.4 0.1 1.5 3.9
Byron Mullens 17 7.7 1.1 2.7 41.3 0.5 1.7 27.6 0.1 0.2 25.0 0.4 1.0 1.4 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.2 1.7 2.8
Reggie Bullock 17 10.3 1.0 2.6 37.8 0.5 1.6 28.6 0.2 0.3 80.0 0.2 1.1 1.4 0.2 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.6 2.7
Ryan Hollins 28 8.7 0.9 1.3 66.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.0 55.2 0.5 1.2 1.6 0.0 0.6 0.1 0.4 1.6 2.3
Stephen Jackson 7 12.4 0.6 2.6 22.2 0.0 1.4 0.0 0.3 0.6 50.0 0.3 0.9 1.1 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.1 1.1 1.4

The crux of the Clippers' offense starts and ends with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Paul averages nearly 20 points per game and is leading the league with 11.4 assists per game, the best mark of his career. Meanwhile, Griffin is the leading scorer on his team with nearly 22 points per game to go with 10.6 rebounds. He has upped his free throw shooting to 70% on the season and is arguably having the best year of his career. But all he can do is dunk so the Suns should just feel free to ignore him.

DeAndre Jordan is the Clippers' defensive enforcer in the paint, averaging 13.3 rebounds (second-best in the NBA) and 2.3 blocks per game (fourth-best in the NBA). Perennial 6th Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford is doing very Jamal Crawford-like things, providing a spark of the bench to the tune of an inefficient 16.8 points per game. Nonetheless, Crawford has proven throughout his career that he can go off on any given night and always commands defensive attention. Moreover, Crawford has become the Clippers' starting shooting guard since JJ Redick's injury a month ago.

Former Phoenix Suns fan favorite Jared Dudley (traded to the Clippers in the deal that brought Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix) hasn't had a great season thus far - he's only averaging 8.6 points and 2.1 rebounds on 43.6 FG% - but is playing better as of late. JJ Redick, who had been having a great season as a starter alongside Paul and Griffin, is still out as he recovers from a fractured bone in his shooting hand.

The rest of the Clippers roster features the likes of Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison, Ryan Hollins, and Stephen Jackson. An eclectic, ragtag group of players but not exactly a strong bench - the Clippers are 17th in the league in bench scoring with 30.7 points per game. The Suns, meanwhile, are 5th in the league with 37.7 points per game supplied by their bench mob.

Key Match-ups

  • Eric Bledsoe vs. Chris Paul - Not only is Paul the best point guard in the NBA, but he's the player Bledsoe backed up for the last two years. Tonight, Bledsoe will face his former mentor for the fist time since the trade. He'll face a tough task as he tries to hold Paul in check (a nearly impossible task) but he must also pressure him on the other end to make him work on both halves of the court. This is the match-up to watch tonight.
  • Goran Draic vs. Jamal Crawford - Crawford is taller than Dragic but is also one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA. Dragic will have to do his best to force tough shots from Crawford (which he has a habit of knocking down with regularity regardless of defense) and should look to attack him on offense. If Crawford starts the game on a strong note, Hornacek may consider moving PJ Tucker onto Crawford and letting Dragic "hide" on Dudley.
  • Channing Frye vs. Blake Griffin - Channing can't expect to necessarily keep up offensively with Griffin, but he should nonetheless be capable of playing some strong post defense to limit his opportunities. He'll also have to run back on defense to limit the transition points "Lob City" thrives on.
  • Miles Plumlee vs. DeAndre Jordan - In my opinion this is the most interesting match-up of the night. Both centers are hyper-athletic rim protectors with limited offensive games. Boxing out isn't really Plumlee's strong suit, but that's exactly what he'll need to do to keep Jordan, a prolific rebounder, off the boards.
  • Bench vs. Bench - This is where the Suns have their biggest advantage. LA's bench is especially weak with Crawford starting, so the Morris brothers, Gerald Green, and Archie Goodwin must take advantage for the Suns to have a chance tonight. And if Ryan Hollins decides to put Dragic in a headlock again, I really hope one of them pulls a Michael Beasley (the only time I've ever advocated going "full Beasley").

This will be a tough test for the young Suns and they'll need to bring their absolute best on the road to have a shot at stealing this win. At the very least, let's hope they don't repeat their Golden State performance.

A win tonight would be a nice way to cap 2013, a roller-coaster of a year for the Suns that went from the lows of Lindsey Hunter and Michael Beasley to the highs of Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek, Eric Bledsoe, and the surprise story of the NBA season.

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