Warriors’ rematch with Suns pushes Lakers-Clippers off national TV

ESPN liked Tuesday’s Warriors-Suns game so much that it decided to air the rematch Friday, bumping the battle for Los Angeles off its airwaves.

Never mind that the Lakers are missing LeBron James, who expected to miss multiple games due to the NBA’s coronavirus protocols (he said in October that he’s vaccinated). Or that Kawhi Leonard is out for the next several months, at least, with a torn ACL he suffered in last season’s playoffs.

Steph Curry, the Western Conference player of the month, is available to play for the Warriors. He’s known to be a huge ratings draw, perhaps more so during this resurgent season for the Warriors. Golden State’s 104-96 loss Tuesday drew an average of 2.4 million viewers, the biggest audience for any non-Opening Night regular season TNT game since 2019, Turner Sports announced Wednesday.

Combined, the Warriors and Suns — winners of 17 straight — entered Thursday with as many losses as the NBA’s third-best team, the Nets. Meanwhile, the Clippers are a half-game behind the Lakers for sixth place in the West — a distinction that will matter significantly in April as the play-in tournament looms, but one that doesn’t matter much in December.

One player who won’t play Friday is Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker, who missed the second half of Tuesday’s game with a hamstring injury. One other point in favor of a possible Warriors win in the grudge match: rest. Phoenix hosts the Pistons Thursday night before traveling to San Francisco overnight.

The game will be preceded on ESPN by the 76ers’ visit to Atlanta to play the Hawks.

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Author: Michael Nowels