The Suns had two days to wipe the slate clean after a disappointing road loss to the Lakers. They’ll have a much sterner test from L.A.’s other team, the Clippers.
Phoenix and Los Angeles have already met three times this season, with the Clippers taking two of the three. The two losses, however, came without the services of Eric Bledsoe and occurred just before the Suns’ current 8-2 stretch.
Here are five things that will factor into Wednesday’s outcome.
Race for Seeding
The Suns chase for a playoff spot is well-documented, but the Clippers have their own destiny on the line as well. L.A. wants to stay ahead of Houston (2.5 games back) and possibly catch Oklahoma City (2.0 games ahead) for the No. 2 seed.
The Suns’ motives are no doubt more desperate, but they won’t be facing a complacent opponent, either.
Blake Griffin was reportedly doubtful for Wednesday night due to back spasms, though the Suns actually contained him on the boards this season (5.3 rpg in three games, lowest average against an opponent this season). L.A. is also likely without sharpshooters Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger and J.J. Redick.
As always, Head Coach Jeff Hornacek’s concern will be those stepping up in Griffin’s place. Former Sun Jared Dudley turned in 16 points, four boards and three assists as a fill-in starter, and waterbug point guard Darren Collison erupted for 28 points in the Clippers’ last game.
While the Suns are unlikely to have off-nights on both ends of the court two games in a row, don’t be surprised if Hornacek goes to his bench if things start poorly.
The Suns’ reserves were one of the few bright spots in Sunday’s loss. The Morris twins combined for 31 points, 18 rebounds and seven steals while shooting 11-of-23 from the field. Gerald Green threw in 22 off the bench.
Given the Clippers’ likely lineups due to injuries, Hornacek could very well employ small ball lineups with Marcus Morris at power forward and some choice of Markieff Morris/Channing Frye/Miles Plumle in the middle.
The center position will be an x-factor, since that player will be charged with boxing out DeAndre Jordan, who amassed 24 rebounds in his last outing.
Plain and Simple
Enough of the stats. What everyone watching will want to know is this: how bad do the Suns want this game?
The Clippers have the better record and will likely win the division. It’s a game casual observers would peg as an L.A. win. The Suns have been at their best in games like those, however, beating the Clippers, Rockets, Blazers, Pacers, Warriors and Spurs this season.
The basic eye test will reveal how amped the Suns are for this game very quickly.
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