Suns Still Shorthanded
Monty Williams was hoping to get some of his big men back in the lineup as the Suns return home, and on the bright side Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee, and Jae Crowder have all cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols. They will still be out against the Clippers, though, as Williams wants to be careful with conditioning for the long haul.
Those important bigs aren’t the only players still on the sidelines for Phoenix, with Landry Shamet and Abdel Naber still in protocols while Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric continue to battle through knee injuries. Jalen Smith is also questionable after catching an elbow to the back of the head in Tuesday’s win over the Pelicans.
Even with all those players down for the count, Phoenix has a chance to go into 1st place by themselves after Golden State’s loss in Dallas on Wednesday night. Chris Paul has dished out 15.5 assists the last two games, Devin Booker had 33 vs. New Orleans, and Mikal Bridges had a season-high 23 on Tuesday, so the Suns should be just fine against Los Angeles.
Clippers Due for a Win
Los Angeles has alternated wins and losses the last five games, which doesn’t bode well for the Suns, considering the Clippers lost 122-104 to the Timberwolves. That would leave LAC in line for a win if the recent trends continue, but that’s also a pretty bad performance at home against a Minnesota team that was missing Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
Phoenix is still a bit thin on the interior, so it helps that the Clippers are missing their 7-footer Ivica Zubac, who is in the protocols. Of course, the big absence for L.A continues to be Paul George, who is out until the end of the month or longer with a strained ligament in his elbow. That’s a big 24/7/5 out of the lineup for the Clippers.
Los Angeles is having a hard time finding scoring in George’s absence, and in Monday’s matchup with Minnesota, their starting backcourt of Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe combined for just 6 points. That puts them at a huge disadvantage as guard play is the Suns’ strength, although Bledsoe did go for 27 points in Saturday’s 4-point win in Brooklyn.
Do Suns Cover the Number?
Sportsbooks have the Suns as a -12 point favorite on Thursday night in this nationally televised TNT contest. That means Phoenix should be able to push their win streak to three games rather easily, but that’s also a huge number to cover.
The -12 would obviously be much easier to get past if Ayton, Crowder, and McGee were able to be in the lineup as they’d have a big advantage on the interior. Instead, it’s going to have to be the backcourt that gets this one done, and the Suns do have a huge advantage there. The Suns did get a 111-95 win in Los Angeles back in mid-December, and that’s when Booker was out working through his hamstring injury.
The Suns are 16-4 at the Footprint Center this season, but LAC has gone 18-8 ATS in the last 26 head-to-head meetings. Sure, a lot of those contests featured some combination of George and/or Kawhi Leonard. Phoenix showed they aren’t afraid to keep their foot on the gas in Sunday’s 34-point win in Charlotte, so they should be able to get this one by a large margin.