The Los Angeles Clippers' 4-0 start culminated with a home win over the Phoenix Suns, but what's followed has been a little dicier.
The DeAndre Jordan-to-Dallas saga is behind them, but it didn't end well and the Clippers are sitting on three losses in four games heading into Thursday night's visit to Phoenix. The Suns haven't put up much of a fight in the series lately, but the Clippers could be without a starting guard.
Los Angeles' two-night trip to the Southwest began with Wednesday's 118-108 loss to the Mavericks – their first stop in Dallas since Jordan backed out of an agreement to sign with the Mavericks in free agency.
Blake Griffin had 21 points and nine rebounds, missing out on a fifth straight double-double.
The Clippers (5-3) had their best 3-point shooting game of the season, going 12 for 27 after entering with an alarming 27.4 percent mark, but Dallas canceled that out by going 11 for 24 and shooting 55.3 percent from the field.
“They never were below 50 percent offensively the whole night, and we never were above 45 percent, so the fact that we were still in the game was great,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That just shows how mentally tough we are.”
J.J. Redick, one of the team's top outside shooters and No. 3 scorer, left the game with back spasms in the first half and didn't return. Austin Rivers filled in with 16 points in 27 minutes.
Despite ultimately retaining Jordan, the NBA's leading rebounder last season at 15.0 per game, the Clippers have yet to outrebound a team this season. Jordan is a minus-35 over the last two games despite Los Angeles beating Memphis on Monday.
The 102-96 home win over Phoenix on Nov. 2 was Los Angeles' eighth straight in the series, with Griffin scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He's averaged 26.4 points on the winning streak while shooting 58.6 percent.
The Suns (3-4) are trying to avoid dropping three straight. They've been off since Sunday's 124-103 loss in Oklahoma City, giving them three days to evaluate their most lopsided loss of the season. Turnovers were part of the focus after Phoenix committed a season-high 23 – its second time at 20 or more in three games.
“Just correcting a few little things we've got to clean up. Obviously some of the turnovers,” Jon Leuer said. “Against some of these good teams that work in transition – like the Clippers that we're facing next or the Thunder – you've got to be really sound fundamentally.”
It followed a 100-92 home loss to Detroit on Friday, and the Suns allowed the Pistons and Thunder to shoot 51.2 percent with the Thunder outscoring Phoenix 64-40 in the paint.
“It's hard to come back from a team that shoots the ball so well when there is no pressure on them with the lead, when it seemed like they made every shot,” said coach Jeff Hornacek, whose team was also outrebounded 52-33. “They outplayed us.”
Phoenix also struggled with its outside shot early on, hitting 28.8 percent through four games, but that's improved to 44.9 in the last three.
Eric Bledsoe had an impressive night against the Thunder, putting up 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 11 assists for his first double-double this season. The former Clippers guard hasn't been at that level against his old team, averaging 13.1 points and shooting 38.8 percent in seven games since switching sides is 2013-14.