Feb 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (center) greets Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce (left) and Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (right) during the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.
After splitting the first two games of a homestand against the NBA’s two best teams, the Los Angeles Clippers will try to avoid their first losing streak in two months against a team that has won only twice in that same stretch.
The Phoenix Suns struck out on a lengthy homestand and look to put an end to their longest skid in almost two decades when they visit the Clippers on Monday night.
Los Angeles (36-19) followed the high of Thursday’s 105-86 win over San Antonio, the league’s second-best team, with a 115-112 loss to NBA-leading Golden State two days later – a contest that was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate.
The Clippers trailed by as many as 18 and allowed the Warriors to shoot 51.2 percent, the highest for a Los Angeles opponent since Golden State’s 52.1 on Nov. 19. One week earlier, the Suns shot 53 percent in a 118-104 win in Phoenix.
Los Angeles made 44.7 percent of its shots against the Warriors on the heels of consecutive games at 50 or better. The Clippers finished 13 of 36 from 3-point range while dropping to 18-9 at Staples Center.
"It was a horrible offensive night that created a horrible defensive night," coach Doc Rivers said. "We were impatient. We wanted to win the game so badly we were in our own way."
The Clippers haven’t dropped consecutive games since losing three straight Dec. 18-21. Their 20-6 record since then is the league’s third best, trailing only Golden State and San Antonio’s matching 23-4 marks. Maybe most impressively, 25 of those games have come without leading scorer Blake Griffin.
Chris Paul has averaged 21.5 points and 9.8 assists while shooting 45.9 percent overall and 39.5 from 3-point range in Griffin’s absence. The forward was on his way back from a torn quadriceps when he broke his hand punching an assistant equipment manager, earning a four-game suspension from the team he’ll serve when he does return.
Paul has averaged 29 points and 10.3 assists in the last three games, and he’s put up 20 points and 9.5 assists per contest in 34 meetings with the Suns.
The 11-year veteran sat out the previous matchup with a sore right groin Nov. 12 as Phoenix (14-42) began its longest streak of the season at three games. The Suns, who lost the first meeting 102-96 at Staples Center 10 days earlier, are 8-38 since.
That home victory snapped an eight-game winning streak in this series for Los Angeles, which includes four straight at Staples Center. Brandon Knight scored 37 points and Eric Bledsoe added 26 with 10 rebounds and nine assists, though both have missed extended time with injuries and aren’t anywhere near a return.
Phoenix is the league’s worst team since Dec. 20 with a 2-26 record. The Suns wrapped up a 0-7 homestand with Sunday’s 118-111 loss to San Antonio, giving them 11 straight losses – their longest skid since opening the 1996-97 season 0-13.
"We’re not content with losing close games," Ronnie Price said. "Not at all."
Phoenix has lost 14 straight road games as well, tied for the second-longest drought in franchise history. The Suns have lost by an average of 18.7 during that skid.