Time is running out on the Los Angeles Clippers’ charge to get back in the playoffs.
To try and improve their postseason chances, the Clippers will need to beat the Pacific Division-champion Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles (39-41) is ninth in the Western Conference, one game behind the eighth-place Golden State Warriors with two games remaining for both teams.
The Clippers would clinch the last playoff spot with a win over Phoenix and on Wednesday versus New Orleans combined with one loss by the Warriors—either to Dallas on Tuesday or at Portland Wednesday.
Los Angeles also could clinch the final spot with one win in its final two games and two losses by Golden State.
The Clippers are trying to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992-93, but also are stumbling, losing four of their last six games including a 105-100 defeat to Sacramento on Sunday in which they trailed by as many as 23 points in the first half.
“We needed to step up, and we didn’t,” said the Clippers’ Elton Brand, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds. “I’m real disappointed with the way we played in the first quarter. I’m shocked because our guys didn’t come out and play hard.
“We knew what the task was at hand, but we just didn’t deliver. Some guys made the effort and other guys didn’t.”
Brand’s effort has certainly been there as he’s averaging 29.5 points and 10.8 rebounds over the last four games. He also is averaging 24.8 points in 12 career games in Phoenix—his second-best road mark versus any opponent.
Corey Maggette added 21 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday, but point guard Jason Hart was held to single digits for the fourth straight contest after averaging 14.0 in a six-game stretch from March 28-April 9.
Phoenix is an impressive 33-7 at home and has won four of its last five meetings there against Los Angeles. The Suns (61-20) have taken two of three meetings this season, including a 115-90 victory in their most recent matchup on Feb. 20.
Phoenix already has wrapped up the second seed in the West and is trying to match its franchise record for regular-season wins with a victory in its final game. The Suns failed to equal that mark Monday, losing 120-117 to the Houston Rockets.
“We want to win every game and keep playing well into the playoffs,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who used his starters for most of Monday’s game. “We’re having fun playing and we’ll keep playing that way.”
Marion is averaging 27.7 points versus the Clippers this season - his best against any opponent.