Suns Host Clippers in Tuesday Preseason Matchup
This year's team has been pitched as the New Look Suns, complete with hashtag. Tuesday night they'll get a reminder that the Pacific Division is just as reformed, in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers.
According to many, gone are the Lakers' heyday, come is the era of Lob City, even if Blake Griffin and Co. no longer prefer the moniker. It was Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan who sat on the set of Jimmy Kimmel's late night show last week, and it's that group who has been touted as could-be contenders in the upcoming season.
Such is the new-found significance of L.A.'s "other" team heading into Tuesday night, though their neighbors in Arizona sport an equally unbeaten record in exhibition play. The Suns will form the second half of a back-to-back road set for the Clippers, who play at Sacramento on Monday night after beating Utah on Saturday.
CLIPPERS at SUNS
When: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m.
Where: US Airways Center
TV: None | Tickets
Radio: Arizona Sports 620
The Suns, meanwhile, are coming off a 106-99 win over San Antonio, another Western Conference power. Gerald Green (19 points) was the latest starting small forward and leading scorer for a Phoenix team that continues to mix and match lineups in the preseason. No. 5 overall pick Alex Len saw the most court action on Sunday, playing 25 minutes and finishing with six points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
The game-to-game mixing and matching of lineups was supposed to help Head Coach Jeff Hornacek pinpoint starters, role players and five-man units that worked well together. Thanks to great play from numerous members of the roster, that hasn't happened so far.
"We’re just trying to mix the guys around so we can see how all of them play with certain groups," Hornacek said. "It’s not clearing anything up for us, really, because all of our guys are playing really well no matter who they play with."
The Clippers haven't been nearly as experimental, rolling out a starting lineup of Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Willie Green and former Sun Jared Dudley for both preseason games. Only Green, however, has logged more than 25 minutes in either of the games as new head coach Doc Rivers gives his reserves minutes and opportunities. J.J. Redick (thigh) and Matt Barnes (knee) have yet to play due to injuries.
There's no shortage of challenge at any position, but the battle at center should be worth watching. Marcin Gortat and Jordan are both active, athletic and mobile centers, but they're productive in different ways. Jordan plays above the rim and relies on his athleticism to get to rebounds. Gortat uses his bigger frame to out-muscle opponents and create space.
Discipline in remembering the other's strengths and habits will go a long way to determining who contributes more to his respective team's success.
Jared Dudley hasn't stood out so far in the preseason (eight points, four rebounds, two assists combined in two games). The veteran swingman should, however, be especially energized in his return to the place where he established his career and role as a solid contributor and chemistry guy in the league.
With that in mind, the Suns will need to make sure Dudley's energy doesn't help the Clippers the way it used to help them, usually in the form of offensive rebounds, steals and hustle plays. Stopping those before they start will be key in the opening stages.
Will Tuesday mark the beginning of a fixed Suns rotation? Hornacek indicated that he would experiment freely through the first three exhibition games before starting to lock down positions and roles. Three wins and numerous lineups later, decisions remain to be made.
Two spots that haven't changed throughout the preseason: the post positions. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris have remained entrenched at the center and power forward slots, respectively. The perimeter rotation has been different every game, particularly at small forward. Green, P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris have all received one starting nod at that spot, respectively, and all three performed well when they did.