LOS ANGELES — In what is technically their home opener, the Los Angeles Clippers will take on the Phoenix Suns to close out the opening week of the NBA season on Saturday, having already delivered a victory in their own building.
A win at Staples Center on Thursday over the Los Angeles Lakers not only kicked off the season in style for the Clippers, it was a show of appreciation for the early gift from the schedule maker. The Clippers are opening the season by playing eight of their first nine games in Los Angeles.
The Suns, meanwhile, will head out on the road knowing their first two games at home created more questions than answers. The Suns lost 132-130 on Friday night to the same Lakers team the Clippers defeated on the “road.”
Playing games on consecutive nights so early in the season should not come as a detriment, but the Suns have been short-staffed without center Alex Len (ankle), guard Davon Reed (knee) and forward Jared Dudley (toe). Len made his season debut Friday, playing 21 minutes while scoring four points.
Also affecting chemistry in the Suns’ humbling 124-76 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in their opener was the fact that T.J. Warren missed time in the preseason because of a back injury. Warren played 27 minutes and scored 11 points while playing 39 minutes and scoring 24 points on Friday against the Lakers.
The 128 points per game the Suns have allowed so far show that defense will be a work in progress.
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“We can’t come in here thinking our age is an issue,” Suns coach Earl Watson said. “When you get into this game, you get into this league you have to play a certain way, in the paint, out of the paint, mindset, continue to play every possession like it’s your last.
“We have to play better, we have to play at a certain level, we have to play at a certain intensity.”
The Clippers are a little farther along in the recovery process after dealing with their own injury issues in the preseason. The roster was completely intact for the season-opening victory over the Lakers, but Patrick Beverley (knee) and Austin Rivers (glute) had just returned.
Clippers newcomers like Danilo Gallinari (sprained left foot), Sam Dekker (strained left oblique), Sindarius Thornwell (sprained right shoulder) and Jamil Wilson (back spasms) had come back earlier in the week, giving the Clippers nearly as much of a chemistry test as the Suns have experienced.
Helping it all come together quickly was the fact that the Clippers’ victory on Thursday was powered by team leaders Blake Griffin (29 points, 12 rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 24 rebounds).
“It’s very important because we are two guys who have been here the longest,” Griffin said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “As leaders of this team, I think it’s important that we always set the tone.
“Even if we aren’t always having great games, (we have) to be able to affect the game and affect our teammates in a positive way.”