Los Angeles (12-16) at Phoenix (18-11)

Fair Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 48° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Dec 25, 2009
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The Phoenix Suns have slowed down significantly in December. Leandro Barbosa(notes) could help get them back up to speed.

The former Sixth Man of the Year is expected to see his first action since November, with the Suns trying to avoid a season-high third straight loss as they meet the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas night.

A win over Toronto on Nov. 29 left Phoenix with a league-best 14-3 record, but Barbosa sprained his left ankle in that game. He hasn’t played since, and the Suns have gone 4-8.

“I think what I have which is good for the team is the speed,” said Barbosa, considered to be among the NBA’s fastest players. “Sometimes I think that the team gets a little bit tired and I think that’s when I come in and give them a little bit of speed, and right now, I’m not there, so there’s nothing I can do.”

Without Barbosa coming off the bench, the Suns are scoring 103.4 points per game in December, nearly nine below their average entering the month. They’re shooting 29.0 percent from beyond the arc over the last three games without the career 40.4-percent 3-point shooter, among 17 players to make 460 3s since the start of his 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year season.

Phoenix’s bench was limited to 12 points in a 117-113 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, two nights after being outscored 36-15 by Cleveland’s reserves in a 109-91 defeat. Both losses came at home after the Suns opened 10-0 at US Airways Center.

Another problem this month has been rebounding. They were outrebounded for the 10th time in 12 games Wednesday, including 16-8 on the offensive glass.

“We’ve got to find a better way to keep them off the offensive boards,” said Amare Stoudemire, who had a season-high 35 points and 14 rebounds. “I think teams are now saying, ‘OK, we can crash the offensive boards against the Suns,’ and we’ve got to change that mentality and do a better job of that.”

The Suns have won five straight and eight of nine versus the Clippers, who have lost four in a row at Phoenix - 140-100 on Feb. 17 in their last visit.

Barbosa led the Suns with 24 points in that game and had 17 in the only 2009-10 meeting, including a key 3-pointer late in a 109-107 victory Oct. 28. Steve Nash(notes) scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and hit the decisive layup with 5.5 seconds left.

Nash had 24 points and 12 assists Wednesday for his fifth straight double-double.

Counterpart Baron Davis(notes) has two in five games on the Clippers’ current road trip and they won both, but they lost the other three. That includes both games this week, as he shot a combined 9 of 24 from the field in losses at San Antonio and Houston.

Los Angeles has been playing poorly on defense, forcing an average of 8.7 turnovers in the last three games while allowing more than 100 points in each. Only two of its previous 12 opponents topped 100.

Chris Kaman(notes) had a career-high 29 points Tuesday in a 108-99 loss to the Rockets, but cared little about his big night offensively.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Kaman said. “It’s very frustrating to lose.”

This is the last of six consecutive road games for Los Angeles, which heads home to face Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Sunday.

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Friday, Dec 25