Clippers-Suns Preview

The Phoenix Suns know they are entering a difficult stretch as they push for the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Clippers have shown how tough they are to beat no matter who they have available.

The Clippers are unsure of the statuses of Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford entering Wednesday night’s matchup in Phoenix.

The Suns (44-30) are in a tight race for a Western Conference playoff spot. Their six-game win streak ended with Sunday’s 115-99 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now Phoenix faces a tough stretch against the Clippers (53-22), Portland and Oklahoma City.

”Our schedule gets a lot harder after this,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”Play all the top teams now in the next six or seven games, so that’s why this game was so important. I mean, if this happens against Oklahoma City or the Clippers, then fine. But this team is not a playoff team, so that’s why it’s disappointing.”

The Clippers have won 16 of 18 and did not have Griffin or Crawford in Monday’s 114-104 victory at Minnesota.

Griffin, who played in the team’s first 74 contests, warmed up before the game but wasn’t quite ready after suffering a back injury Saturday against Houston. Crawford was out with a calf injury.

Los Angeles didn’t need them thanks to a balanced attack in which all five starters scored in double figures. Darren Collison scored 28 points and DeAndre Jordan had 11 and a season-high 24 rebounds.

”That’s the attitude that we have to have that no matter what the obstacles you just keep playing,” coach Doc Rivers said. ”We have enough guys, and that’s what we talked about today. We didn’t mention the injuries. … You just go out and play and it’ll work out if you believe that and play well.”

The Clippers are closing in on a second straight Pacific Division crown and trail the Thunder by two games in the race for the No. 2 seed.

”Everyone keeps track,” forward Jared Dudley said. ”We know we have another game against (the Thunder) at home and we’re just trying to win every game. We want that 2 seed and we know the 1 seed could be tough because San Antonio hasn’t lost in a month or so.”

Dudley scored 16 points Monday in his first start since Jan. 18. He made his return to Phoenix with four points in 11 minutes off the bench in a 104-96 victory March 4 after spending his previous four-plus seasons with the Suns.

Phoenix shot 49.9 percent during its win streak before finishing at 38.5 percent against the Lakers for its fifth-worst mark. Gerald Green scored 22 points off the bench and Goran Dragic added 17.

”I don’t know if we had a single guy who came with the energy that they usually have,” Hornacek said. ”We’ve had games like this before, where they think they’re just going to show up and win a game. We’re not good enough to do that."

Griffin is averaging 24.7 points on 57.1 percent shooting in the season series, with Los Angeles winning two of three. Crawford, ironically, missed both victories and scored 15 in a 107-88 loss Dec. 30.

Dragic leads Phoenix with a 21.0 scoring average versus the Clippers.