Dec. 23, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) blocks the Phoenix Suns guard Shannon Brown (26) in the first half at US Airways Center. The Clippers defeated the Suns 103-77. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Los Angeles Clippers(32-11) vs. Phoenix Suns(14-28)


Well it definitely didn’t take too long for new Phoenix Suns head coach Lindsey Hunter to win his first game as an NBA head coach as the Phoenix Suns beat the Sacramento Kings last night by the final score of 106-96.

Hunter and the Suns will be faced with a tougher task tonight as they are set to take on the Los Angeles Clippers who are own the third best record in the NBA. The good news is, Hunter and the Suns  may get a break tonight as the Clippers will likely be without star point guard Chris Paul who’s out dealing with an knee injury.

“There’s no timetable right now,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s just sore … It’s a pain tolerance thing. It’s a bruise on your kneecap and you have to be able to run and move and cut and jump and do things and it’s going to be sore for a while.

Going into tonight’s match-up between the Suns and the Clippers, the Clippers are the favorite by a 6.5 point margin according to ESPN.com. The Clippers will likely be without Paul and the Clippers are still without Chauncey Billups who’s still dealing with his foot injury. The Suns will be without Jermaine O’Neal, O’Neal is undergoing a series of medical tests and screenings for an undisclosed medical condition.

Keys to the game: Suns

- Beware of the Clippers bench! The last time these two teams played the Clippers bench torched Phoenix in the fourth quarter and ultimately propelled Los Angeles to victory. The Clippers benched outscored the Suns bench 47-25 in their last meeting.

- No turnovers! At this point I’m a broken record, I get that. Nonetheless the Suns can’t turn the ball over against the Clippers. The Clippers are a highlight reel waiting to happen, one turnover against the Clippers could potentially turn into a highlight reel dunk by Blake Griffin which leads to L.A gaining tremendous momentum.

“They’re playing show basketball with the alley-oops and the fancy passes,” said Suns center Marcin Gortat “They can afford to turn the ball over a few times. Our team can’t fall for that. We have to run what the coach is telling us to run and to execute.”

- Rebounding! The Suns need to take advantage of the Clippers on the boards, it sounds like a bit of a stretch but it isn’t. The Clippers despite their talent on the front-court are a surprisingly poor rebounding team as they’re ranked 17th in the NBA in rebounds. Without Paul, the Clippers would have a tougher time on the offensive end and if the Suns can limit the Clipper’s second chance points, Lindsey Hunter may improve his record to 2-0 as the Suns head coach.

Keys to the game: Clippers

- Eric Bledsoe! Bledsoe has been getting the starting nod at point guard with Chris Paul out, and despite Bledsoe’s tremendous success as Paul’s back-up this season, he’s been pretty average when he’s been inserted into the starting line-up. In Bledsoe’s four games he’s started(plays 31 minutes on average), he’s averaging 11.8 points, 3.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds on 39% shooting from the floor. The Clippers have gone 3-1 with Bledsoe as their starter but they may need improved play from Bledsoe going forward in order continue their winning ways.

- Feed the Griffin! Blake Griffin has been dominant the last two games, in Griffin’s last two games he’s averaging 28.5 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 steals while shooting nearly 60% from the field and 81.3% from the foul line. 

The X-Factor!

- Road woes. The Clippers are 3-3 on the road in their past six road games, and the Clippers have won just one game in Phoenix since April of 2007 and that win came last month. Will lighting strike twice for the Clippers in the valley? Only time will tell.

Match-up of the night! 

- Luis Scola vs. Blake Griffin. Scola will have his hands full tonight against a red-hot Blake Griffin. Scola may not blow you away defensively but he’s a smart veteran who’s had success bothering young players on the defensive end.

Tags: Los Angeles Clippers NBA Phoenix Suns