Clippers-Suns Preview: Three Things to Watch


Who: Phoenix Suns (5-4) at Los Angeles Clippers (4-3)

When: 7:30 p.m. PST (10:30 p.m. PST)

Spread: Clippers (-7)

Feels like it’s been a week since the Clippers last took the floor, having last been seen in a loss to the reigning NBA champions in the San Antonio Spurs.

Unlike the previous losses the Clippers had collected in the season, this one felt like a step in the right direction. A few balls rolled in the wrong direction and a potential game-tying layup from Chris Paul bounced out. The flaws Los Angeles suffered from were as apparent as ever, but it felt like an effort you hold your head high from and build from.

At 5-4, the Suns have taken a slight drop off from last season, but still remain as one of the more dangerous teams to face in the league behind their monstrous point guard play (Bledsoe, Dragic, and Thomas average a combined 46.1 points, 12 assists, and 9.9 rebounds per game). The good news for Los Angeles? The Suns will be on the second leg of a back-to-back coming off a loss to the Charlotte Hornets. With the Suns coming into Los Angeles, this plays into the Clippers hands, especially if they choose to be aggressive and run the floor.

Here are three things to watch when these two teams take the floor:

More from Clipperholics

1 – Chris Paul vs. Phoenix’s 3-Headed Point Guard Machine

For every minute Chris Paul is on the floor, he won’t have a minute of rest as Phoenix rotates their three point guards, each offering something different. The jury is still in on Paul being one of the best defensive point guards in the league, but he’s shown some slippage this year against some of the quicker point guards in the league (i.e.: Lillard, Damian). With so much energy expended on the defensive end (unless Doc opts to check the lead guard with a Matt Barnes-esque figure), Paul’s offense could take a huge hit, especially the mid-range jumper he’s often taking (Paul is hitting 56% of his mid-range shots this season).

2 – Running the Floor

Something is gonna have to give tonight: the Phoenix Suns are fourth in most fastbreak points allowed at 15.3 per contest; the Los Angeles Clippers are league average fast break team this season: per NBA Stats, they rank 18th amongst 30 teams at 11.6 per contest. In comparison to last year, the Clippers have taken a huge drop off in the fastbreak portion of the game — they ranked 2nd in the league last year. Some of that is the loss of now-Sacramento Kings point guard Darren Collison and some is the team not pushing it after the rebound. Regardless, there’s a window to get that part of the game going, especially if Blake Griffin makes it his business to push the floor after rebounds.

It should also be noted that the Suns are currently 2nd in the league in fastbreak points per game.

3 – Taking advantage of Phoenix’s lack of spacing

You’d never imagine how much of an impact player Channing Frye is just off his name alone. Regardless of what you think of him as a player, his ability to change the game for his teammates is huge and the Phoenix Suns are witnessing it as Frye is now a member of the Orlando Magic.

Last season, the Suns shot 6 percent better from three with Frye on the floor (33.7% to 39.3% — some of that is Frye’s own shooting and the other portion is Frye’s ability to create open shots for his teammates just by being on the floor. For example, Goran Dragic shot 46.9% with Frye on the floor last season. With Frye off the floor? 29.1%. only Eric Bledsoe (on 2.5 attempts per game) and Anthony Tolliver (on 1.9 attempts per game) are shooting above 33% from three. As a team, the Suns are shooting 32.9% from three this season and teams are defending them like this:

Theoretically, this makes things easier for the Clippers defense: it’d — again theoretically — allow the Clippers to pack the paint, making life harder for the Morris Twins, Dragic, Bledsoe, and the rest of the team to be effective. It’s not necessarily betting on the Suns to beat you from deep, but it’s the ideal gameplay for a team who isn’t a great three-shooting club.

More from Clipperholics