The Los Angeles Clippers can use last season’s playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns as motivation when the teams meet on Thursday night. The only problem is that a majority of LA’s current roster wasn’t around when they fell in six games in the Western Conference final.
The makeshift squad is doing its best to stay afloat completing a recent road trip with an upset win over Brooklyn as a 14-point dog. And the Clips will likely be without several players who starred in the team’s 111-95 win over the Suns just a few weeks ago.
Clippers vs Suns Date & Time
Thursday’s game will air live on TNT with tip off at 10 p.m. ET from Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ on January 6, 2021.
Clippers vs Suns Odds
Los Angeles Clippers +11 (view odds)
Phoenix Suns -11 ( view odds )
Total 221.5 ( view odds )
Season to Date
To say it’s been a turbulent few weeks for the Clippers would be an understatement. Every team has to deal with the reality of the COVID virus with players in and out of the lineup. The Clips have dealt with that and the absence of coach Tyronn Lue as well.
Still, they completed a recent three-game road trip with an upset of Brooklyn to go 2-1 moving back over .500. They will have to navigate the foreseeable future without leading scorer Paul George and Nicolas Batum, who are out with injuries. And they haven’t had Kawhi Leonard all season. Beating the Nets in their most unlikely win of the season should at least give the Clips a dose of confidence that they can compete with the roster they have.
A loss to the Warriors on Christmas Day sent the Suns into a mini slump. That was the first of two straight setbacks and three in four games. They snapped out of it with a 133-99 thumping of Charlotte on Sunday despite having Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee in the COVID protocols. That does allow for other players to make a difference and the Suns saw what Jalen Smith can do.
The 2020 first round pick got the start against the Hornets dropping a career-best 19 points with 12 boards calling it his most complete game as a pro. Even with their mini slide the Suns are battling the Warriors for the top overall record. They improved to 28-8 SU and 19-17 ATS.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips are making the most of their current situation. They were dealt a blow on Christmas Day when it was revealed George would be out for at least a month with ligament damage in his elbow. His tenure in LA has been marred with injuries, but this hurt even more since Leonard is unlikely to play this season. Taking the two most prominent players off the floor would leave any team a mess and the Clips struggled losing five of six. They regrouped a bit on the road with wins over Boston and Brooklyn.
And they’ve gotten solid work from Eric Bledsoe, who scored 27 points against the Nets and is averaging 17 points over a six-game stretch. Reggie Jackson continues to build on his solid playoffs from a season ago and Amir Coffey has developed into a fine all-around player. “You just gotta keep fighting, keep pushing. Scratch and claw and try to get these wins so we can make the playoffs,” Bledsoe said after the Brooklyn game.
As we’ve seen throughout the NBA no team is immune from COVID. How the players that are available respond will go a long way to determining how the season unfolds. The league has vowed not to stop the season and games will be postponed only in the worst case situation. So clubs have to make do and the Suns did over the weekend. Signing Bismack Biyombo to a 10-day hardship contract proved a wise move. In his first game with the Suns, Biyombo had 11 points and six rebounds in the win over Charlotte.
Forced into action with Ayton, McGee and Crowder on the COVID list, Smith has made the most of his time on the court. Over the past four games Smith is averaging 16 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting over 56 percent from the field. It also helps that Chris Paul and Devin Booker have remained virus-free to form a lethal backcourt.
Clippers vs Suns Prediction
This isn’t the same Clippers team that reached the conference finals last season, and they’ll be without George for a few more weeks. They may have caught the Nets napping on Sunday and that certainly opened the eyes of the Suns, who won’t take them lightly.
And Phoenix sure would like to get back in a groove after a slide dropped them behind the Warriors in the overall league standings. The Clippers won the first meeting of the season, but I don’t see them having the depth or scoring to keep up in this one.
Prediction: Phoenix Suns -11 and UNDER 221.5