Mar 10, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) shoots over Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker (17) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Suns face Clips in first game of tough final stretch


Mar 28, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) dribbles around New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) during the fourth quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 28, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) dribbles around New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) during the fourth quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns were rolling on a six-game winning streak going into Sunday’s game against the Lakers that most saw as an easy win. But the Lakers who had won 2 straight home games for the first time since November showed up big against the Suns and pulled out a win 115-99. Another blow for a Suns team that needed the easy win to better position themselves for the playoffs. The fast-break league-leaders were outmatched by the Lakers who had 22 fast-break points to the Suns 17. The Suns got behind early when they missed 19 of their first 25 field goals in the first half. A 17-0 run by the Lakers seemed to put the Suns on their heels and they just never seemed to get back into the game. The Suns only bright spot seemed to be their effort in limiting turnovers, they had 13 on the night.

The 44-30 Suns host the 53-22 Los Angeles Clippers, who are 2-1 this season against the Suns. The Suns have a very difficult final stretch before the season ends, facing the Clippers Wednesday night will be the first of a series of games against tough teams like the Blazers, Thunder, Spurs, Mavs and Grizzlies who are either in the playoffs already or fighting for the last spot to get in. The Suns cannot fall behind early to the Clippers like they did against the Lakers. The Clippers can kill you inside or run the ball and try to outrun teams. The Suns will need big numbers from Dragić and Bledsoe or some combination of Dragić and one of the bigs.

Key Matchup:

Goran Dragić versus Chris Paul. Dragić is still the catalyst for the offense but will have to rely on his teammates if the Clippers employ the same technique that stifled Dragić in the last contest in March, when they double-teamed Dragić as soon as he touched the ball. The addition of Bledsoe will help this as Bledsoe will get to run free if the Clips try to surround Dragić. For Paul his job is to get everyone involved and that means especially getting Blake Griffin in the mix early in the game.

Key stat:

Field goal percentage. The Suns were shooting close to 50 percent during their six-game winning streak and a measly 38.5 percent during their atrocious loss to the Lakers Sunday night. This will be the main factor in Wednesday night’s game as the Suns will need to shoot lights out to keep up with the Clippers in this game.

What the Suns offense needs to look for:

Fast breaks. The Suns thrive on easy basket opportunities and will need a lot of fast break chances to beat the Clippers. The Suns are still leading the league in this category but will not win if they cannot get their offense going early in the game.

What the Suns defense needs to look out for:

Griffin. Blake Griffin has answered most of the criticisms about his game this year, learning to be a better post player with a finishing move as well as someone who is not as big of a liability at the charity-stripe. The bigs for the Suns will have quite the challenge if Griffin is in the lineup Wednesday night.

Clippers sleeper to have a good game:

Darren Collison. Collison had a monster game Monday night against the Wolves scoring 28 points and dishing out 7 assists in a win. Collison is averaging 11.1 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game this season. He can get to the basket in a hurry and will definitely be someone the Suns need to lock down.

Prediction: The Suns lose 110-106 in a close one to the Clips.

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Tags: Basketball Eric Bledsoe Game Previews Goran Dragic NBA Phoenix Suns Suns Suns Vs Clippers