Out of sync, hobbled and staggering to the end of a four-game road trip, the Phoenix Suns will take their struggles to Los Angeles on Thursday night for a matchup with the Clippers.
The Suns have lost five consecutive games, including all three so far on the current trip that mercifully ends Thursday. Star guard Devin Booker has missed consecutive games with a tight left hamstring, Cameron Johnson remains out with a knee injury, and two more injuries cropped up during Tuesday’s 111-97 defeat to the Houston Rockets.
Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton (ankle) and Cameron Payne (foot) each went down in the first half, placing even more of the burden on others. Mikal Bridges tried to pick up the slack, but he ended up going 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) from the field and 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
The Suns shot 32 percent from the field as a team and 25.5 percent from distance, and were outrebounded 67-44, all against a nine-win team.
“Sometimes when it rains, it pours, man,” the Suns’ Landry Shamet said, according to the Arizona Republic. “… Weather the storm, keep building, keep working on us. Focus on the things we can keep controlling. If we could control it, we’d make every shot.”
While the Suns closed November on a six-game winning streak, they are 1-6 in December. Booker and Ayton are both listed questionable for Thursday’s game, which would be a much-needed help. Payne will miss the game.
“The thing that I told our guys is you’re going to have games like that,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I thought we stayed competitive, we defended. A lot of our missed shots turned into fast-break opportunities for them.”
Those kind of days showed up early in the season for the Clippers, but the team’s prospects are far better since star Kawhi Leonard has returned following residual knee soreness from the surgery that kept him out last season.
The Clippers pulled off their best victory of the season when they took down the NBA-best Boston Celtics on Monday in their first game back from an East Coast road trip. They returned to the court Wednesday and looked worn down against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Los Angeles still managed a 99-88 victory over Minnesota, but did so despite shooting 26.5 percent in the first half. The Wolves had a 43-38 lead at the break with the 81 combined points the lowest in the first half of an NBA game this season.
The Clippers shot an impressive 52.5 percent in the second half, however, as Paul George delivered a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Leonard scored 19 points.
“When you come back off a road trip from the East Coast, everybody thinks it’s the next day, but it’s really two or three days afterward when you’re really tired,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I knew today was going to be a tough game for us mentally. I was tired myself and I didn’t play in any of the games. … We had to grind through it and our defense won us (Wednesday’s) game.”
The Clippers were short-handed Wednesday without Norman Powell (groin) and John Wall (knee). Big man Ivica Zubac did not play in the second half because of left knee discomfort.
–Field Level Media