Two teams playing their best basketball down the backstretch of the regular season face off when the Los Angeles Clippers host the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
The Clippers never trailed for two straight games in back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.
In midst of a nine-game homestand, the Clippers have won eight of their last 10 games. Phoenix has won seven straight entering Thursday’s contest and 11 of their last 13.
Los Angeles continues to follow its two-headed monster of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to carry the load offensively. Leonard is averaging 25.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists this season. George is averaging 22.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists on the year.
Along with Leonard and George, the Clippers hope to get a boost from the addition of Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins.
The Clippers picked up Rondo in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, shipping Lou Williams and picks to the Hawks to secure the services of the 35-year-old point guard.
And earlier this week, the Clippers signed Cousins to a 10-day contract after his recent release from the Houston Rockets. Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue sees the two players as experienced veterans who can help fortify his team during a deep postseason run.
“He’s a problem,” Lue said about Cousins. “He’s a big load. He can post up. He can shoot the three and he can pass the basketball. So, he can do a lot of good things. It’s just getting him into shape and also getting him acclimated to what we’re doing offensively and defensively.”
Devin Booker has put Phoenix’s offense on his back during the second half of the regular season. Booker is averaging 34 points, 4.2 rebounds and four assists while shooting about 40.5 percent from the three-point line over the last six games.
While Booker handles things on the perimeter, Deandre Ayton is holding it down inside for the Suns, averaging a double-double of 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds over the last 10 games.
In a battle of the top two teams in the NBA on Wednesday, the Suns took care of business at home against Utah, earning a hard-fought, 117-113 overtime victory in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
The Suns face the Clippers in the second of a back-to-back in Los Angeles. The Clippers can clinch the season series with a win at Staples Center. Los Angeles defeated Phoenix 112-107 on Jan. 3 in Phoenix. The two teams meet one more time during the regular season on April 28 in Phoenix.
Chris Paul has been the glue holding this young Phoenix team together, making clutch plays for the Suns in the final minutes of games.
The 35-year-old, averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 assists a contest, is not concerned about big games in the regular season.
“I hate to say it, but I don’t take too much away from these games, win or lose,” Paul said. “When we play these games, we don’t know if a team is coming off playing four (games) in five (days) or guys are sitting and resting.
“But I think everybody has the same mindset. It’s the next game on our schedule. We’re going to go out, compete and play our way to win the game.”