Preview: Suns (38-24) at Clippers (25-35)

Suns 127, Clippers 101



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.

  • The Z. Man

    VERY important game.

    Suns paly a VERY important game each game. Suns, Nuggets, Jazz, and Thunder all have a realistic goal of starting the playoffs at home. Mavs and Lakers have pretty much a lock on a top four seed. Then there are the Spurs and Blazers who should feel happy with the fade of the Rockets, Hornets, and Grizzlies to even be in the playoffs. But the Spurs and Blazers will likely begin the playoffs on the road, where they don’t play very well. Most likely they will lose in the opening round, just like last year.

    Four teams, including our Suns, are all playing musical chairs, all playing playoff ball now in each and every game. Only two will find a seat before the music will eventually stop. Cippers are a good team (60% winning rate at home) who, like the Spurs, Blazers, and Jazz, have a hard time on the road. Suns road readiness will be put to another test. Back when we opened this year in L.A., Lopez was hurt and had not as yet developed his game. When we visit this time, Suns will have improvements not only from Lopez, but from Dragic and STAT as well. J-Rich will also play this time. What we will miss is the Brazilian Blur. Lady luck may be on our side. LB does appear to be regaining the touch and strength in his shooting hand and appears to be closer to coming back. Will he return for this game? Hard to say. Hope he is back very soon. Suns will be VERY hard to beat with a healthy Brazilian Blur starting along side Nash.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Ace Phoenix

    Let’s go Suns.
    3 big games first, starting with LA tonight. Beat LA, no matter which LA it feels good to beat LA. TNT tomorrow night at home and the Pacers on Saturday, big 3 game in 4 night, 5 in 6 stretch. This is the pivot and only road game in the 5, would be a huge win to put under our belts.
    Let’s do it.
    Sorry to disappoint Z. Man, LB won’t be back until next week. He needs some time to practice before he can play in a game. After the Pacers on Saturday we are off until we host the Lakers on Friday the 12th. 5 days without a game to practice, yeah the Lakers will be the first team in 2010 to see a full strength Suns squad.