A rare defeat earlier this month has not fazed the Phoenix Suns, who have taken advantage of a light schedule to start a new streak in advance of a road matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
It is the first time the Suns and Clippers have met since Phoenix won last year’s Western Conference finals in six games.
Since falling 118-96 on Dec. 3 to the Golden State Warriors, ending an 18-game winning streak, the Suns have found success again with home victories over the San Antonio Spurs last Monday and the Boston Celtics on Friday.
After the Warriors’ 102-93 defeat Saturday at Philadelphia, Phoenix has the best record in the NBA at 21-4. Despite their lofty status, the Suns promise to not overlook the Clippers, who have had a bumpy ride this season without star Kawhi Leonard (knee surgery).
“They play hard-nosed defense and they have a number of offensive environments that you have to deal with,” Suns coach Monty Williams said if the Clippers. “(Clippers coach Tyronn Lue) utilizes his team about as good as anybody. We have talked about all the different things you have to deal with.”
Phoenix’s 20th victory in 21 tries Friday came without both Devin Booker (hamstring) and Deandre Ayton (non-COVID illness). Booker, who leads the Suns in scoring at 23.2 points per game, has missed the last four contests and is listed as week-to-week.
While there is no update on Booker’s potential return to the court, he did go through shooting drills after practice Saturday.
Without two of their top performers Friday, the Suns received both energy and production from veteran big man JaVale McGee, who had a pair of season highs in the 111-90 victory over the Celtics, scoring 21 points with 15 rebounds.
Just like the Suns, the Clippers have been hobbled of late. In addition to Leonard’s absence since the start of the season, Paul George has missed the last two games with a right elbow contusion.
The Clippers still have managed to put together a three-game winning streak, beating the Celtics and Orlando Magic without George and his team-leading 25.0 points per game. He also leads the Clippers in assists (5.4).
While the Suns have been dealing with a light schedule of late, the Clippers played their eighth game in 14 days on Saturday. Lue said guard Reggie Jackson was dragging at the end of the victory over the Celtics, but looked refreshed after a two-day break while scoring 25 in a 106-104 victory over the Magic on Saturday.
Jackson had enough energy down the stretch to deliver a game-winning 22-foot jump shot with 2.2 seconds remaining to give Los Angeles the victory. Nine of his points came in the final three minutes.
“It feels good just knowing we have a solid team without our two best players,” said the Clippers’ Terance Mann, who had 16 points against the Magic. “We’re beating teams with their best players on the court; without ours. It’s a good feeling, but it’s not easy.”
–Field Level Media