Eric Bledsoe‘s Return:
As Chris Paul‘s backup for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, Eric Bledsoe showed signs of potential that could never be fully realized as long as he played behind one of the best point guards in the league. Thanks to the Jared Dudley trade, Bledsoe has gotten (and made the most of) an opportunity to shine as a starting guard for the Phoenix Suns, who have raced out to a startling 18-11 record and the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers, Bledsoe and the Suns have yet another opportunity to prove they’re legitimate.
Tonight marks Bledsoe’s return to Staples Center in the first game against his former team. The marquee matchup is obviously Bledsoe vs. Chris Paul, since both are tremendously quick, athletic and strong for their size. Bledsoe and Paul are both terrific perimeter defenders as well, which gives the matchup some extra intrigue. From their time playing together and their friendship, “Bledsoe vs. CP3″ will be the top storyline heading into tonight’s game, but if the Suns want to get a tough road win against a Pacific Division opponent, there’s another matchup that’s just as vital.
Chris Paul is averaging 27 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and 4.3 steals per game in his last three contests, but Blake Griffin has been just as dynamic recently, tallying 30.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in his last five. Miles Plumlee will be battling DeAndre Jordan on the glass for rebounds, but the Suns don’t really have anyone athletic or lengthy enough to stay with Grffin. If Channing Frye and Markieff Morris can’t contain Griffin, Phoenix will be in for a long night in Los Angeles.
As for Bledsoe, this game represents a chance to truly legitimize his standing as one of the NBA’s most impressive point guards. There have to be a fair amount of butterflies in his stomach returning to the arena he called home last year and playing against the point guard many believe to be the best in the NBA. Bledsoe has been up and down in his last five games, averaging 15.6 points, four assists and 4.2 rebounds (despite shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor). But if there’s any way to continue the strong play of his last game against the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s on the road against Bledsoe’s old mentor and a Pacific Division rival.