Is this a winning streak? A trend? A surge? An uptick? I’m not sure how to label the two consecutive Clipper wins, but it’s been a relief, that’s for sure. Even if they travel to Phoenix where they have lost the last six matchups and are 0-7 on the road for the season, there is definitely a pleasant exuberance to the team that, even as recently as 5 days ago, appeared demoralized.
Fortunately for the Clippers, the Phoenix team isn’t the same one as even a season ago. The 2010-2011 Suns have bottomed out so far that they overtook the Clippers to have the worst defensive efficiency rating in the league (going into today, the Suns have a 110.1 Def Eff, worse than the Clippers 109.3 Def Eff).
Although Offensively, the teams aren’t so similar, as the Suns have the 3rd highest offensive efficiency in the league (108.2) and the Clippers, while they have seen a small spike in improvement, are 26th in the league (99.9 Off Eff). The Suns run such a well orchestrated offense, led by 2 time MVP Steve Nash. Nash penetrates often, with a crafty ability to finish around the rim with floaters, scoops shots and fadeaways while still maintaining his uncanny ability to hit his teammates, like an open Hedo, or a cutting Warrick, if they even have a sliver of daylight. This will test the young, still awkward Clippers defense, because they have only shown glimpses of being able to contain opposing PGs, with the last two games being the highlights. It was more than surprising, it was impressive that they kept Paul to 2 points and an assist in the close second half of Monday’s game and forced Tyreke into a 2 for 13 shooting night in the Clippers’ Thanksgiving Feast.
The good news is that the Suns don’t have any interior presence that will damage the Clippers in the same way that the Knick have with Amar’e Stoudemire and the Hornets have with David West. You can count Warrick as a vastly improved player working with Steve Nash, but he’s not even close to West and Amar’e’s level. And because the Suns are so perimeter oriented, they don’t have the types of strong, rangy centers that bother Blake in the post. Robin Lopez would be their lone source of interior toughness, but he’s out right now with a knee sprain. So Blake will have the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Hakeem Warrick, maybe Jared Dudley and Channing Frye covering him in the post. Doesn’t sound like the type of players that will stop him from going for another great game in line with the last three that he’s put up (44-15-7 against the Knicks; 24-13-4 against the Hornets; 25-15-5 against the Kings).
This game is particularly important because it’s the easiest game to win in the near future. After the Suns, the Clippers return home to play the Jazz and San Antonio before returning to the road to face Denver and Portland. The team appears more unified and exuberant from their two wins and probably from the spillover from Blake’s historic game against the Knicks, so a win in Phoenix is plausible.