Suns-Clippers Preview

The Phoenix Suns’ surge has been mostly due to a home-heavy

schedule, and it’s already victimized the Los Angeles Clippers.

A change in venue has historically not made a difference in this


The Suns look to for an improved defensive effort as they try to

continue their dominance of the Clippers on Thursday night when

these Pacific Division rivals meet for the second time in two


Phoenix (20-22) has won eight of 11, averaging 103.0 points.

That’s an increase of almost 10 points per game as the Suns attempt

to turn around a season that appeared to be slipping away with a

four-game slide prior to this stretch.

Their recent surge, however, has been aided by the schedule.

They’ve played 10 of the last 11 at home, losing the only road

contest in that stretch to drop to 7-12 away from home this


The Suns wouldn’t appear to be too concerned with matching their

season-high five-game road losing streak since they face the

Clippers (24-17) again. They beat Los Angeles 81-78 on March 2,

rallying from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to improve to

12-1 in the past 13 meetings.

Phoenix has won five of six at Staples Center, scoring 116.3

points per game.

Still, coach Alvin Gentry wasn’t happy after the Suns needed to

erase a 13-point deficit to beat Utah 120-111 on Wednesday, two

days after falling 127-124 to Minnesota.

“We had three guys with 20 or more and all the starters in

double figures and that’s great and fine,” Gentry said of Phoenix’s

scoring distribution. “But we are just going to have to zero in and

get a little better defensively. The last two games have been a

little alarming.”

Improved defensive play could help the Suns withstand this

stretch of three games in three days, which started against the

Jazz and ends Friday when they host Detroit.

Another strong performance from Jared Dudley would surely help.

The swingman had 21 points against the Jazz, and is averaging 19.9

while hitting 54.2 percent of his shots from the floor – 14 for 32

from beyond the arc – over the last seven games. That includes 22

points versus the Clippers earlier this month, more than doubling

his career average against them from his previous 11 meetings.

Steve Nash had six points, six assists and seven turnovers in

that matchup. He’s been much better over the past 11 road meetings

with Los Angeles, averaging 17.2 points and 12.8 assists.

Los Angeles is trying to win back-to-back games for the first

time since Feb. 15-16, going 5-8 in 13 games since.

The Clippers, though, are hoping they can build on Wednesday’s

96-82 win over Atlanta, as reserves Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe

scored 25 and 14 points, respectively.

“It was a must-win,” said Williams, who has totaled 46 points in

two games. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves for this game

because we needed it really bad. So we came out and did what we had

to do against a good team.”

While Williams is averaging 17.2 points over the past nine

games, the Clippers will likely need increased producion from stars

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Paul had 13 points and nine assists against the Hawks, while

Griffin’s 12 points were his fewest in 30 games. The duo was also

kept in check by the Suns earlier this month, as Paul scored 16

points with five assists while Griffin added 17 points and seven