Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe 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.