Phoenix would like to begin steadying itself as the postseason approaches and force the Clippers to wait a bit longer to clinch a playoff berth when the teams close their season series.
Los Angeles has been a distant second to the Pacific Division-leading Suns in recent months, but had a chance to climb within 5 1/2 games of the defending division champions when the teams met on March 15.
That matchup was never close, with Phoenix scoring the game’s first 10 points and leading by at least eight the rest of the way en route to 126-95 victory.
“I think we all knew it was a big game for us,” Steve Nash said after finishing with 25 points and 12 assists in that win. “In many ways, it would be tough not to say this clinches the division.”
However, the Suns have yet to clinch it, going 4-5 since then.
They closed a five-game road trip by blowing a 16-point lead in the second half in a 109-102 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
The return, and subsequent departure, of Amare Stoudemire had been a bit of a distraction. There remains no timetable on another possible return for the All-Star forward, who played three games after sitting out all season recovering from knee surgery but was forced out of action last week for further rehabilitation.
“There’s so much going on that I’m sure a lot of people are going to think of a way to count us out,” Nash said. “That’s fine. But I also think we feel really confident and we wouldn’t advise anyone to bet against us.”
It would be hard to bet against the Clippers making the playoffs even if they lose this game. Their magic number for wrapping up a postseason berth is down to two, meaning a victory in this contest and a loss by New Orleans would put the Clippers in the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97.
They’ve already clinched their first winning season since going 45-37 in 1991-92.
Los Angeles, however, could be a bit tired for this road game against the fast-paced Suns after pulling off its biggest comeback of the season Tuesday.
Sam Cassell scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and the Clippers rallied from a 22-point deficit in the second half to beat Denver 111-109. Los Angeles allowed the Nuggets to shoot 81.6 percent in the first half.
“I’m just happy and proud that we showed the resolve and the intensity and the heart to come back,” said Elton Brand, who recorded his 41st double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“But on the other hand, it was disappointing that we had to come back like that after digging ourselves such a deep hole.”
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Clippers - 17-19 on the road; Suns - 28-9 at home.