LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (32-11)
at PHOENIX SUNS (14-28)
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -6.5, Total: 191.5
With Chris Paul out for the foreseeable future, Eric Bledsoe looks to lead the Clippers to a victory in Phoenix on Thursday night.
The Clippers have lost two straight SU and three in a row ATS, while the Suns just picked up a win in their first game under interim coach Lindsey Hunter with a 106-96 win at Sacramento on Wednesday. Los Angeles is likely to be without PG Chris Paul again, which will be the fifth game he has missed in the past seven contests, including the past two defeats. But the Clippers have won both match-ups with Phoenix this season by a wide margin. The first time they met on Dec. 8, Los Angeles won by 18 at home. The second game between the two, the Clippers won by 26 in Phoenix.
Can the Clippers win comfortably without Paul on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Scott is 4-3-1 ATS in his past five days to boost his season Best Bets mark to 52.2% ATS (59-54-1). StatFox Brian is at 51.2% ATS (65-62-3) while StatFox Gary is winning 51% ATS (52-50-4) for the season. The four experts are collectively 50% ATS on Best Bets for the season. For NBA Totals, Scott is 9-4 (69%) since Jan. 15, boosting his impressive season NBA Totals record to 62-44 (58%).
Los Angeles is coming off losses to two of the better Western Conference teams in the Warriors and Thunder, and while the defense faltered without Paul, allowing 107.5 PPG on 52.3% FG, the offense was fine in both defeats (98.0 PPG on 46.1% FG). PG Eric Bledsoe (8.7 PPG, 2.7 APG) has been the starting point guard for the Clippers in Paulís absence and ran the offense well in Tuesday's loss to the Thunder with four assists and just one turnover. But Bledsoe hit just 5-of-16 shots in that defeat, making him 6-of-23 FG (26%) in his past two starts. PF Blake Griffin (18.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG) was dominant in the losing effort against Oklahoma City though, scoring 31 points (11-of-19 FG) while also grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Griffin now has three straight double-doubles (24.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG), and he's also averaged a double-double in his career versus the Suns with 21.7 PPG and 10.0 RPG in 10 meetings. In two games versus Phoenix this season, Griffin has 23.5 PPG on 62% FG with 9.5 RPG and 4.0 SPG. With Paul out, SG Jamal Crawford (16.6 PPG) will likely lead the Clippers in field-goal attempts in this game. Although he was just 6-of-18 from the floor in Tuesday's loss, he has averaged 21.5 PPG on 52% FG in two games against the Suns this season.
Phoenix looked good in Lindsey Hunterís first game as a head coach, shooting 48% from the floor and committing just 11 turnovers. This ended a skid of 10 straight games of failing to reach 100 points. PG Goran Dragic (14.0 PPG, 6.2 APG) played a phenomenal game for the Suns on Wednesday, scoring 12 points and adding 11 assists with just one turnover. But he has been horrible against the Clippers this year, scoring just 7.5 PPG on 26.7% FG with six assists and six turnovers. PF Luis Scola (13.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG) played great as well on Wednesday, scoring 21 points (9-of-13 FG) to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. He has 14.5 PPG (59% FG) and 7.0 RPG in the two meetings with L.A. this season. Lindsey Hunter also got the best out of SF Michael Beasley (9.7 PPG), who turned in 19 points and six rebounds for his new coachís debut. Beasley also pumped in a team-high 21 points on 7-of-11 FG in his lone meeting with the Clippers on Dec. 8. PG Shannon Brown (12.3 PPG) has provided a huge spark off the bench for the Suns all season, but heís been playing some of his best basketball over the past five games. In these contests, Brown is averaging 15.8 PPG on 47.6% FG with 2.8 SPG.