PHOENIX SUNS (10-24)
at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (22-14)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -5.5, Total: 212
If the reeling Clippers donít win at home against the Suns tonight, when will they?
The Suns continued to experience difficulties during a tough stretch of their schedule on New Yearís Eve, falling 91-86 on the road to the Utah Jazz (PHX +11.5). The loss dropped Phoenix to 10-24 on the year (16-17-1 ATS), which puts them in last place in the Pacific Division and tied for last in the Western Conference, with the fourth-worst record in the entire league. It was the third loss in four games for the Suns, although the win in that stretch was a 99-91 home victory over the 22-9 Raptors (PHX +8.5). Phoenix now gets another tough opponent and a division rival in the Clippers on the road. Tough on paper, at leastóthe Clippers are in absolute freefall on a six-game losing streak. The most recent of those losses was a 114-88 thrashing in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder forced them to turn the ball over 17 times. Los Angeles is now 22-14 (16-20 ATS) and, after seeming like a sure thing at the top of the Western Conference standings, in a four-way tie for fourth (or seventh) in the West. Over the last five seasons, teams allowing at least 103 points per game (PHX) are 39-77 ATS against opponents that have allowed 110 or more points in two straight games. In the same time frame, though, favorites coming off of two consecutive road losses (LAC) are 22-44 ATS against division opponents. Clippers PF Blake Griffin will continue to be out for Mondayís game, PG Chris Paul is doubtful and C DeAndre Jordan is probable.
The Suns are 24th in the NBA with an offensive efficiency rating of 104 points scored per 100 possessions and 25th with a defensive efficiency rating of 110.7 points allowed per 100 possessions. They play the second-fastest pace in the entire league in averaging 100.5 possessions per 48 minutes. Phoenix is led in both scoring and assists by PG Eric Bledsoe (19.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.5 SPG). Bledsoe also easily leads the team with a player efficiency rating of 20.5óno one else on the roster who gets regular minutes breaks 15.0, which is the league average. He flirted with a triple-double against the Jazz on Saturday (19-8-8), but shot only 7 of 20 from the field. He had a three-game streak of scoring 30-plus points in early December, but has scored no more than 27 in a game since. Starting alongside Bledsoe in the backcourt is second-year SG Devin Booker (18.8 PPG, 3.2 APG), from whom the expectations entering this season seem too high in retrospect. Booker dazzled at the end of his rookie year, but has become less efficient with increased usage and attention from opposing defenses. He shot only 39% from the floor and 30.3% from three in the month of December. SF T.J. Warren (14.7 PPG, 4.0 PPG, 1.5 SPG) looked poised to break out before suffering an injury a few games into the year; he had been good since returning a few games ago, but scored four points in 27 minutes against Toronto and zero points in 19 minutes against the Jazz. PG Brandon Knight (12.7 PPG) is averaging a career-low 23.0 minutes per game and seems to be a likely candidate for a trade.
The Clippers are sixth in the league with an offensive efficiency rating of 111.5 points per 100 possessions. Theyíre similarly strong on defense, ranking ninth with a defensive efficiency rating of 106.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. They play a fairly average pace of 96.3 possessions per 48 minutes. Griffin (21.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.7 APG) has missed eight straight games, while Paul (17.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 9.5 APG, 2.2 SPG) has missed five of the teamís last six. Griffin projects to be out for several more weeks, while Paul is more day-to-day. Much was made of Los Angelesí 31-16 record without Griffin last season, but his absence, while hard to isolate from Paulís at this point, has had a much bigger impact this year. SFs Paul Pierce (3.8 PPG), Wesley Johnson (3.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (6.3 PPG) have rotated starting at the non-center frontcourt positions to try and fill in for Griffin, and they only had four double-digit scoring games between the three of them in all of December. Small forward was already a weak position for the Clippers, and they now effectively start two of them on most nights. After sitting two straight games in the middle of the current losing streak with a minor injury, SG J.J. Redick (14.9 PPG) has 13 total points on 5-of-18 shooting in the last two games. C DeAndre Jordan (11.7 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG) is third in the league in rebounding, but the absences of the teamís superstars have laid bare his limitations on offense. SG Jamal Crawford (12.1 PPG) has shot 5 of 29 from the floor in his last three games.