Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
TV: FSASurprisingly, the lottery-bound Phoenix Suns find themselves in the same predicament as do the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers.
Both teams are spinning their wheels as the season nears its end, the obvious difference being the result of Vinny Del Negro’s squad having quite a bit more talent. But as the Suns make a quick road trip to Los Angeles on Wednesday, it won’t help that the Clippers’ best player, Chris Paul, is coming off one of his worst games of the season and the team is calling a game against Phoenix “sort of like a playoff game.”
Paul went 2-of-12 from the field in a 109-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
And the Clippers are 7-8 since the beginning of March, their place atop the Pacific a good bit of evidence of how dire the situation is for the NBA’s West Coast muscle.
Sure, Los Angeles is 49-26 and in the top-half of the Western Conference playoff race, but only because of the divisional clout and despite Memphis being 1.5 games ahead of it record-wise. The Golden State Warriors, once a darling of the league, is technically still capable of falling out of the playoff picture altogether. The Lakers, whose lottery placement is well-recorded on this very website, have of course been a major disappointment.
And the Suns have won one game in their last 10. In the Western Conference, only Lindsey Hunter’s team and the Portland Trail Blazers have been colder than the Clippers over the last 10 games. Los Angeles and New Orleans have gone 4-6 over that time while the Trail Blazers are 3-7.
So the Suns might have a fighting chance if Los Angeles continues to lack a sense of urgency.
Even if the Clippers do treat it like a playoff game, Phoenix matching that intensity could do more than play into their hands. Though he’s out for the season, Blake Griffin enforcer Channing Frye said earlier this year that Los Angeles is vulnerable against physical, playoff-style basketball.
It’s the reason the 2011-12 Phoenix team — albeit a very different one — won its most important game of the year against the Clips.
“In playoff basketball, highlights aren’t going to get you (anything),” Frye said. “You aren’t to get your highlight.
“I put the Clippers, Denver, Golden State and Houston kind of in that same realm; they play very fast,” he added. “And of course I like how they play, but it takes a while for them to get used to how to win in the playoffs. It’s a little different.”
The Suns’ spotty displays of grit might make it a game. That was displayed in the most recent meeting between the two teams. Phoenix won a 93-88 battle on Jan. 24 when Los Angeles was without Paul.
Then again, if Paul and the Clippers find their groove, it could be more like the Suns’ 117-99 and 103-77 losses to them earlier this year.
Former Sun and Polish National Team member Maciej Lampe told EuroBasket2013.org that he believes that he’ll convince Phoenix center Marcin Gortat to join him this summer. Gortat said earlier this year he’d consider taking it off.