Preview: Phoenix Suns (36-26) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (44-20)


Time: 7:30 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

Clippers

Clippers

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Suns

The Phoenix Suns take on the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night for the second time this week, and they do so on the back end of a back-to-back. With the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies having hopped the Suns in the Western Conference standings, Phoenix doesn’t have much leeway to lose consecutive games.

On Sunday, the Suns dropped a 113-107 contest to the Golden State Warriors, a game they pretty much controlled outside of one stretch in the third quarter. It was very similar to Phoenix’s loss to the Clippers last Tuesday. Take out the third quarters of those two games, and the Suns could be a perfect 3-0 during this four-game gauntlet that wraps up tonight. Instead they are 1-2.

In two games against the Pacific Division leading Clippers, the Suns have played very well. In their first meeting, and the last game with Eric Bledsoe, the Suns ran the Clippers off the court. Last week, they took an 11-point lead into halftime before allowing Matt Barnes to spark a 37-18 third quarter outburst that helped the Clippers to victory.

Outside of not letting Matt Barnes score 28 points, here are some keys for the Suns tonight.

What about the FOE Bros.?

Until Eric Bledsoe comes back, the Suns bench is dependent on the Morris twins to be successful. Yes, Ish Smith provides big minutes as a spark-plug that can run the offense, but he doesn’t provide much in the scoring department. Markieff Morris has been consistent in the last month, scoring in double-digits in all but two games. The point total of Marcus Morris kind of tells the story of the Suns winning or losing. Since the beginning of February, the Suns have loss their last five games when Marcus Morris scores in single digits. When he scores in double digits, the Suns are 8-3. It is very important that the FOE Bros. can provide scoring off the bench tonight, especially if Bledsoe holds off his return until Wednesday.

Does Blake Griffin remain quiet?

The Suns have done a fantastic job in two games of quieting Griffin, who is averaging 18.5 points and five rebounds per game against the Suns. Griffin averages nearly 10 rebounds and 24 points per game on the season, and aside from his role in the painful third quarter last week hasn’t been too much of a burden for Phoenix. The Suns’ physical defense against Griffin deserves credit, but in playing against him in front of the Staples Center crowd, the Suns can’t let Griffin get going with a big dunk early in the game. If they stick to their game plan from the past two outings, they should continue to find success in slowing down the All-Star.

Does Dragon get his running mate back?

Gut instinct here is that Eric Bledsoe comes back tonight. He said he is aiming to come back against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, but I can see it happening just before tip. Bledsoe wasn’t going to come back last night on the front end of a back-to-back; that just wasn’t going to happen. Tonight makes much more sense, especially with Gerald Green and Goran Dragic having tired legs by playing 38-plus minutes last night. It would also make for a full circle story of returning to the court where he injured his knee.

Tags: Dragic Griffin Hornacek Los Angeles Clippers Paul Phoenix Suns

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Len starting tonight or is Plumlee getting that back? anyone heard?

  • vtsunrise

    I think it’s Len(t) for 40 days. Let’s hope the Suns are still playing (and rising!) on Good Friday.

  • vtsunrise

    I’m psyched to see this game. Something tells me the Suns will give us something special, including the return of Bledsoe. Already planning a pre-game east coast nap so I can see this one live.

  • Foreveris2long

    Ellensburg, I sure hope Len starts tonight because Plumlee’s bad shots and defensive lapses seem to overshadow the good he does on the court.

  • Al

    Man. Phoenix can’t fade now. Suns need to have a strong month of March, because Memphis certainly won’t let up. Thunder and Spurs may give Phoenix 2 W’s to have a better chance of making it out of the first round. I doubt either of those two teams wants Memphis in the first. Hope Dallas old squad wears down and loses more.

    The last few games have been entertaining, but the one thing I haven’t liked is Hornaceck using PJ at the 4 in a small line up. I know PJ is strong and a good defender, but he’s not able to contain Griffin or heavy Draymond Green off in the paint. The two times I saw Phoenix give up over 35 points in the 3rd was when PJ was put at the 4. The only two players that should be playing the 4 position is Frye and Markieff. No matter how average at best they are at defending that position. Should play Randolph more if they need a body in the paint. Also, I don’t get why Frye and Plumlee get the ball in the low post. That’s just a guarantee for a low percentage shot no matter how close they are at the basket. The only one of the bigs capable to create a decent shot is Kieff.
    Hope Bledsoe gets some minutes tonight, because Ish Smith jump shot is just…bad.

  • Rengaw

    Let’s not forget that Plumlee was quite efficient offensively in the low post early in the year, and he seemed to be getting better with each game.

    Then the floor fell out from under him and his game slipped for what ever reason.

    Len is…..tall…..young……runs the floor well for a big guy. Boy, how many guys have we seen with thoses assets and go no where. I would like to see him get physical with guys. Although he seems to have good hands, he never seems to get any special rebounds….just the ones that come his way. It is not like he is just standing around, his 5 personal fouls in 11 minutes must mean something.

  • DBreezy

    Vt,

    I saw those shoes you posted in the other thread, pretty rugged! I don’t think I’d make it past TSA or my management with them, but I’ve been a lot places they would have been useful this winter.

  • DBreezy

    “Len is…..tall…..young……runs the floor well for a big guy. Boy, how many guys have we seen with thoses assets and go no where.”

    True, but with bigs it’s usually about motor more than other things. I always think of Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry back with the Bulls as classic examples. Chandler was the freak athlete of the two, but all he could do skill wise was block shots, rebound well, and finish mostly in transition. Curry was nowhere near the athlete, but he had excellent offensive skills and a pretty advanced for the game on that end for a high school kid.

    Yet he had no motor and Chandler did and it’s made all the difference in the longevity and impact of the respective careers of those two. We see tons of guys at other spots with questionable motors trudge on for years in NBA on the fringes or rosters, yet with bigs it’s like so many of those types just fall off the map completely. Look at what’s going on with Bynum the last few years. It’s not just physical, as to me his injury issues haven’t been as bad as Oden’s or even the last few years for Amar’e. But his head is another story. He still should be an effective player at his size in this league, even if isn’t what he once was. The guy is massive in a league that has few true giants these days, has great touch and understanding of positioning and how to kept the ball high.

  • DBreezy

    That should be keep instead of kept.

  • DZ

    I’m not saying that there is a connection but Plumlee’s problems seemed to start after Bledsoe went down. I’m actually hoping that there is some sort of connection. If Plumlee suddenly starts playing better when Bledsoe returns, we will know for sure. the two things are probably not related but who knows for sure.

    As much as I like how Green has played, the Suns have just not performed as well with him in the starting lineup and Bledsoe out. But that’s easily explained as the Suns just having one less offensive and defensive “weapon” with Bledsoe out. With him back, the Suns will simply be a stronger team.

    With Bledsoe back and IF the team stays healthy for the rest of the season I predict that the Suns not only make the playoffs but at least give whoever they play in the first round a scare if not pulling off an upset.

  • http://thewhistle.com/media/uploads/basketball/ixkznsh1nwmur.gif Il Pope dei Soli

    Alex LENt for 40 days. The Prodigal Suns rising after Archie GoodWIN Friday.

  • DZ

    “Alex LENt for 40 days. The Prodigal Suns rising after Archie GoodWIN Friday.”

    If that makes any sense to anyone, please explain it to me.

    Read more: http://valleyofthesuns.com/2014/03/10/preview-phoenix-suns-vs-los-angeles-clippers/#ixzz2vbfXFX00

  • DZ

    Sorry about the link at the end of my last post. It wasn’t intentional and just loops back to this article.

  • http://thewhistle.com/media/uploads/basketball/ixkznsh1nwmur.gif Il Pope dei Soli

    Obviously you’re not a golfer.

  • Luka

    The Suns defensively have been a joke. Markieff and Frye don’t even bother to box out. They also double at the wrong times and fail to get back at the rim to secure the board. I just don’t know what they’re doing out there.

    On offense we don’t execute in the half court really. Nobody can take the ball and break the defense down. It’s just Dragic more or less on his own. He’s lucky if he can get Kieff or Frye to set their screens correctly. Green is a great shooter, but quite possibly has the worst basketball IQ in terms of ball handling and making plays. It’s gotta be frustrating for Goran.

    So I guess it boils down to Bledsoe’s return. Otherwise we’ve got to seriously address this PF problem in the offseason.

    On a side note I usually don’t try to harp on the refs but dear god these guys were bumbling idiots. How did Blake not get a technical for retaliating? Dragic was also raked across the arm by Paul and they totally missed it. Just a damn frustrating night.

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