Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns
7:30 p.m. PST
December 8, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
Video of the Day
Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin decided to have an impromptu dunk contest last week.
1. Will the Suns finish in the Western Conference’s top eight by season’s end?
Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@AndrewLynch): Phoenix currently sits eighth in the West. They need to fend off three major competitors: Sacramento (seriously; no, seriously, stop laughing, DeMarcus Cousins makes anything possible), New Orleans (Brow power, naturally), and Oklahoma City. The Suns might be the most talented of those teams (that doesn’t have Durant and Westbrook) when factoring in bench depth, but they don’t have a super-duper-star on the level of Cousins or Davis. And even after missing Boogie for a significant stretch recently, the Kings are a slightly stronger team so far this year, per basketball-reference’s SRS.
Law Murray, (@LawMurrayTheNU): I expect them to. I had the Suns finishing third in their division, but fifth in the West when the season started. They check in Monday night third in the division, but eighth in the conference. They started 12-9 last season as well, so even though they have some ground to make up, I think they’re in good shape.
Roscoe Whalan, (@RoscoeWhalan7): No. In fact, I’m willing to go all Stephen A. Smith on this prediction and say they’ll be out of the eight by the New Year. Oklahoma City is just 4.5 games behind them, and barring another fluke injury to the Thunder there’s little doubt they’ll make the playoffs. Sadly, Phoenix will still win 50 games. Such is life out West.
2. Is the three-point-guard experiment working?
Lynch: It’s working in the sense that the point of an experiment is to obtain results and learn things. But this is really starting to click, and it’s not like the Suns’ guards have been bad so far this year. Dragic has taken a step back from last season, but that was to be expected, I think. And as Phoenix has started to crystallize each player’s role, the team has gotten better and better. It’s been a process, and the grand outcome still might be that someone gets traded. But I like where things are headed.
Murray: I think so. For one, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to lineups and positions. So if Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are starting together, then one of them is a shooting guard. Second, even though the numbers are down for all three players, they’re all still quite effective. And third, you see that Isaiah Thomas is out. Depth matters.
Whalan: I’d say so. As Goran Dragic says, there’s only one ball but only Isaiah Thomas has really seen his minutes clipped. That said, in his new role, he’s been dynamic. His per 36 minute numbers are similar to his output last year in Sac-Town and he’s a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate thus far.
3. What has been the key to the Clippers’ winning streak?
Lynch: It’s tempting to say the schedule. Five of the seven games have been against teams the Clips should certainly beat. But holy Shammgod, they are destroying teams over the past seven games, and it’s been mostly on offense. The Clippers are slowing the pace—four times they’ve been under 90 possessions—and executing every aspect of their offensive gameplan. Chris Paul has obliterated teams with his decision-making. Oh, and the defense has been stout, too. And that might be the most impressive thing —nothing that this team is doing is particularly gaudy. For the past seven games, they’ve simply been the team we thought they could be.
Murray: The Clippers are on fire shooting the ball, particularly J.J. Redick (17 PPG during streak). It’s really that simple. They are shooting better over their last seven games than any other team over its previous seven, knocking in 51.7 percent of field-goal attempts, while making an NBA-high average of 13 threes a game on 30 attempts. That’s a league-leading 43 percent over that stretch.
Whalan: Ball movement. The team is whipping the ball around at a rate of knots. It starts with Blake who’s not letting the ball stick as much (nearly five assists per game during the streak). It helps that guys like J.J. have hit their stride. After a slow start shooting-wise, the team ranks first overall in three-point percentage. Scary.
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