PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have been inconsistent in almost all realms this season.
They started 14-3, slugged through a pair of 7-9 months and have now won 12 of 15 including their last two wins in January.
But the one thing they have consistently done is beat the bottom feeders in the Western Conference.
The Suns are a combined 11-1 against the Clippers, Kings, Warriors and T-Wolves, with the lone loss coming in a December shootout in Oakland. Phoenix will put that record to the test tonight in Los Angeles, where they will look for their fourth victory of the season over the Clippers, which Steve Nash knows won’t come easily.
“We just beat the Clippers, and it’s hard to beat a team continuously,” he said of Phoenix’s 125-112 victory in the Valley on Friday night.
In years past the Suns used to be a team that could beat any team on any given night (as they can now) but also a team that seemed to play down to its competition and lose some real head scratchers. Against Western Conference teams at least, that hasn’t happened this year.
That’s a big reason why the Suns look like a playoff lock, barring some sort of injury catastrophe like the eye injury Amare suffered at the Clippers in the second half of last season. This team is 6 1/2 games up on ninth-place Houston with the tiebreaker, and just so you know I’m not a walking jinx alert, John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds give the Suns a 99.5 percent chance of reaching postseason play. I would take those odds to Vegas.
However, the next month and a half will be a sprint for playoff positioning, with just five games separating Nos. 2-8 and the Suns smack dab in the middle of that crew in the No. 5 seed, 2 1/2 games behind No. 2 Dallas and 2 1/2 games up on No. 8 Portland. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Suns climb to No. 2 or drop to No. 8, but at this point I expect them to stay somewhere in the middle in the Nos. 4-6 range.
“The games that we have left, we have 20 games left, and all of them really count,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It’s just going to be one of those situations where you really do have to take care of business.”
The Suns, who have won seven in a row against the Clippers, will be facing a team that has some talent as well as a cool 18-12 home record, including a win Monday over Utah. It’s just that pesky 7-23 road mark that’s an issue for the Clips, which is surprising for a team that boasts Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon.
When Phoenix beat the Clippers in Staples in the season opener, Gentry called it the most important win of the early going because of the confidence it gave the Suns as far as winning close games on the road goes, something they continued to do throughout their 14-3 start to the year.
Now rolling with a run of 12 wins in 15 games, the Suns will try to keep the momentum going by taking care of business once again versus a bad West team.