PREVIEW: LA Clippers look to continue dominance over Suns (5:30p, Prime Ticket)


The Los Angeles Clippers had their way with the Phoenix Suns when it mattered most in their previous meeting this season, dominating the paint while pulling away to a 16-point victory almost two weeks ago.

Consider it part of the education of Suns center Deandre Ayton, the 7-foot piece of their future.

And although the Clippers are in a mini-skid since stopping the Suns 115-99 on Nov. 28, the Suns have been going through much worse heading into Monday’s game.

Phoenix (4-22) has lost eight in a row, 11 of 12 and is off to the worst start in franchise history.

The Clippers dominated the boards in the previous meeting in Los Angeles, rolling up a 56-34 rebounding edge.

How dominant?

Forwards Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris and center Boban Marjanovic all had double-doubles, and 6-foot-8 Montrezl Harrell played so well inside that Ayton mistook him for a player several inches taller. Ayton had a season-low four points with nine rebounds in that game.

The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, Ayton is averaging 15.8 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 59.5 percent from the field. But he been tested physically on the defensive end, and questions have arisen about his energy level.

“It’s been challenging, obviously,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told reporters.

“We put a lot of pressure on him. Expectations are high. It’s not easy to carry and be a big part of any franchise in the NBA, and he’s realizing how difficult it is to be that guy.

The Clippers had scoring issues of their own in a 121-98 loss to Miami on Saturday, a day after the Heat handled the Suns.

Los Angeles was outscored 30-8 in the fourth quarter, when the Heat used a 27-2 run that drew a pair of technical fouls from Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Miami had a 58-48 rebounding edge despite playing without center Hassan Whiteside for the second game in a row.

“We played poorly,” Rivers told reporters afterward. “It (technical) wasn’t why we lost the game. We didn’t play very well.”

The Suns have continued to experiment with the starting lineup and the rotation in the absence of Booker and T.J. Warren. Booker has missed four of the last five games with a hamstring strain and Warren has missed five in row with a right ankle injury.