Preview: Los Angeles Clippers (3-13) at Phoenix Suns (7-8)

Phoenix Suns 116, Los Angeles Clippers 108

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PHOENIX — The best news about the Suns’ monumental collapse Wednesday against the Bulls was that their next opponent will be a Clippers team coming off a rare late national TV game the night before.

Aside from that, I can’t find many positives after Hakim Warrick stopped dominating the Bulls late in the second quarter.

But they might even be getting the Clippers at the wrong time as they come in hot, for their standards at least, after beating the Hornets on Monday and smoking the Kings last night following 13 losses in their first 14 games.

Aside from that, the Clippers’ 3-13 overall record and 0-7 road mark is a bit misleading because they have played the league’s third-toughest schedule. You can say the same thing about the Suns after they have played the NBA’s second toughest schedule to date.

Even when Los Angeles had just one win in 14 games, it had to have been the most exciting 1-13 team in NBA history.

After all, the Clippers boast a lineup full of exciting players in Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and DeAndre Jordan. If Chris Kaman and Baron Davis, both out with injuries, can ever get healthy and rolling, this could be a dangerous Clippers team.

It goes without saying that none of those Clippers scare the Suns nearly as much as Taylor Griffin’s little brother, who should decimate the Suns’ withered front line. His astonishing combination of speed and athleticism is something you just have to see in person, and I shudder to think what he might do if matched up against Hedo Turkoglu.

Griffin averages 3.9 offensive rebounds per game, sixth in the league, and about 2.8 SportsCenter worthy plays per game. They might need to create an entire episode on Griffin just from this game based on the interior work done in recent weeks by the Suns’ bigs, especially with The Blake averaging 31 and 14.3 his last three games and 19.3 and 11.3 overall.

But don’t let all that Griffin love fool you into thinking the Clippers are a decent basketball team. Their whole is much less than the sum of their parts at this point.

Only the Suns, dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency, yield more points per possession than the Clippers (109.3 per 100 possessions), and their offense isn’t much better at 28th and an average of 99.3 per 100, putting them at the bottom of the league with Minnesota in efficiency differential.

There’s no way Los Angeles will stop the Suns, and considering both teams’ defensive rankings I wouldn’t be surprised by another shootout.

Although he would surely take any win, Alvin Gentry isn’t exactly hoping for a shootout. He’s steamed that the Suns allow opponents to shoot a league-best 48.9 percent against them and score more per 100 possessions (110.1) than anyone else in the NBA.

“We don’t want to be last, that I can tell you,” Gentry said about defensive field-goal shooting. “To me realistically last year we got to the point where we almost made the top 10 (finishing 11th). If we’re a middle of the pack team then I think we’re in good shape because I think we’re a good offensive team. We can’t be dead last, and that’s where we are right now. I’ve just been very disappointed because I thought we would take another step forward defensively this year, and we have not done that.”

If the Suns do a decent job of defending the Clippers, their offense will lead them to a much-needed victory after the kind of collapse that can derail a season Friday night.

Over the course of an NBA season teams will lose games they have no business losing and win games they have no business winning. By my count, the Suns are now .500 in that department in light of the luck involved with their Memphis double overtime win.

We should learn something about this basketball team as we find out how the group bounces back from such a crushing defeat.

“It’s got to be something that hurts,” Hill said of Wednesday’s loss. “With that said, we have a game coming up and we can’t be so crushed and so low after this game that it affects our confidence on Friday.”

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It will be interesting to see how Gentry handles his bench. The Clippers are certainly younger than Phoenix, but the Suns should have an edge with Los Angeles playing the second game of a back-to-back.

The Suns could not take advantage of that situation against the Bulls, as Chicago seemed to get stronger as the game went on, but perhaps the youthful bench can push the tempo and put a big run on Los Angeles.

Gentry did not trust his bench against the Bulls for one of the first times in his tenure. The bench must regain that trust for the Suns to reach their potential.

Tags: Blake Griffin

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