Following their matchup on Thursday in downtown Phoenix, both the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns will welcome the All-Star break.
Both teams, who haven’t quite lived up to internal expectations, are expected to have attention-grabbing stretch drives, although the Suns are much better after going 1-9 until the middle of January.
The next thing Phoenix needs to do is get over the All-Star break so that new acquisition Kevin Durant can make his team debut once he recovers from a right knee injury. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will both be released by the Clippers for the remainder of the season.
The Suns saw TJ Warren (five points in seven minutes) make his return to the team in Tuesday’s 120-109 home victory over the Sacramento Kings after he was acquired in a trade last week. Both teams have also been incorporating new players into the mix.
When Durant was introduced in the third quarter, he was seen on the bench dressed in street clothes and received a standing ovation.
Devin Booker scored 32 points in his third game back from a groin strain, so Durant had to like what he saw. Chris Paul had a season-high 19 assists, and Deandre Ayton scored 29 points. Since that 10-game skid last month, the Suns have won five of their last six games and are now 11-3.
Tyronn Lue, the head coach of the Clippers, wanted to take it easy on Leonard and George before the break, but he had to change the plan after losing to the Golden State Warriors twice in a row on Tuesday. His change made all the difference.
As a result of a 44-point third quarter, the Clippers defeated the Warriors 134-124. Leonard scored 33 points in 34 minutes, George added 20 points and eight assists in 32 minutes, and George had eight rebounds.
Mason Plumlee scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in 17 minutes, Eric Gordon scored seven points and had three assists in 22 minutes, and Bones Hyland scored six points in 16 minutes for Los Angeles.
Lue will need to make a quick assessment of how to incorporate his newest players into the mix with 22 regular-season games remaining.