Overhauled Clippers eye season sweep of reeling Suns
The Los Angeles Clippers will be looking to sweep the season series and extend the Phoenix Suns' misery when the Pacific Division rivals meet Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
In the final game of the NBA's first half for both teams, the Clippers (31-27) find themselves in a logjam in the Western Conference playoff race, while the Suns (11-47) are shackled with one of the worst records in the league and riding a 14-game skid.
The Clippers have alternated losses and wins in their last seven games as they attempt to adjust to a lineup that's undergone a serious reshaping since the trade deadline. They've gone 3-0 against the Suns this season, but that was before discarding Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley earlier this month.
Garrett Temple, acquired from Memphis, and Ivica Zubac, picked up from the Los Angeles Lakers, have been starting in their place.
Temple had 11 points and Zubac 12 when the Clippers shocked Boston 123-112 on the road on Saturday, overcoming a 28-point deficit. But they combined for just seven points in Minnesota on Monday, when Los Angeles was beaten 130-120.
The Clippers also picked up Wilson Chandler, Landry Shamet and JaMychal Green as part of the three trades they made at the deadline.
Shamet has helped strengthen an already potent Clippers bench with 17 and 15 points in his last two games, shooting 7-for-12 on 3-pointers. Green had his first double-figure scoring night for Los Angeles when he went for 11 points at Minnesota. Chandler, acquired from the 76ers, has yet to play for the Clippers because of a strained quad.
Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank tried to put a positive spin on the deals during a town hall-type gathering last week, but admitted there will be nights like the one Monday in Minnesota.
"We're still gonna do everything we can to make the playoffs," he told Clippers fans, "but we're honest, we're realistic. There could be some short-term pain. But what we're hoping is we're able to then have a long run."
Los Angeles also picked up an unprotected first-round pick -- Miami's in 2021 -- in its maneuvering.
The Clippers have dominated the Suns not only this season but also to the tune of 11 straight wins dating back to April of 2016. They've won 10 straight at home in the rivalry, with Phoenix's last win in Los Angeles coming in December of 2013.
The Suns will take the court Wednesday having lost not only 14 in a row and 10 straight on the road. Their last win came Jan. 12 against Denver, with the last road win Dec. 26 at Orlando.
Phoenix also was active at the trade deadline, acquiring Tyler Johnson from Miami for Ryan Anderson.
The Suns' debuted what they hope will be their backcourt of the future when Devin Booker returned from a hamstring issue for Sunday's 117-104 loss at Sacramento.
Playing alongside Johnson for the first time, Booker had an efficient 27 points on 9-for-19 shooting. Johnson had three assists in the game to go with nine points and five rebounds.
Booker admitted in the wake of the loss that he and Johnson need to get to know each other better.
"I'm going to be at All-Star weekend," Booker told reporters of his participation in the annual 3-point shootout. "But right after that, I've got to touch a basketball and still polish up on things. I hope that everybody has that same mindset."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 12, 2019