The Los Angeles Clippers kicked off a grueling slate of games with an easy win behind an impressive display from Chris Paul.
The five-time All-Star could make all the difference as the Clippers look to put an end to their recent struggles in Phoenix.
In the first of four upcoming meetings between these teams, Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles visits the Suns on Friday night hoping to avoid a ninth consecutive defeat at US Airways Center.
Since posting a 103-99 road win over the Suns (15-20) on April 17, 2007, Los Angeles (21-12) has dropped 14 of 16 in the series - including eight in a row in Phoenix by an average of 17.2 points. Paul, however, is averaging 24.6 points and 10.9 assists in his last 12 matchups with the Suns, and could give the Clippers a leg up in this one.
Scoring 28.3 points per contest on 60.8 percent shooting in his last three, Paul scored a team-high 22 to go along with nine assists as Los Angeles began a stretch of four games in five nights with Thursday's 108-100 win at Sacramento.
While the Clippers were outrebounded 40-33, they made 12 of 23 from 3-point range and built a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter, allowing most of their starters to get some much-deserved rest.
"To be in a game like this where I think we (only played) in the fourth quarter for like 2-3 minutes, it's great," Blake Griffin said. "You don't have to finish the game off and get the extra rest, especially with this stretch of games coming up."
In their first game back following the All-Star break, the Suns looked refreshed during Thursday's 104-95 win over Minnesota. Phoenix limited the Timberwolves to 39.5 percent from the field and won its fourth straight when holding an opponent under 100 points.
"Much needed win for us, it's something we can try and build on (Friday) night," coach Alvin Gentry said.
One of six Suns to score in double figures, Steve Nash had 13 points to go along with 17 assists and a season-high eight rebounds.
"He knows how to play, he's smart and like I said, he's one of the best ever," Timberwolves rookie point guard Ricky Rubio said of Nash. "He knows how to control the game and he passes very well, which option he has to find for the team and he just runs it and does it."
Nash is averaging 15.3 points and 11.5 assists in his last 27 meetings with the Clippers, coming out on the winning side 21 times.
After a lackluster start at home, Phoenix has taken three of four on its own court. With eight of their next 10 games at home, the Suns could creep back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They currently sit in 13th place, 3 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final postseason berth.
"(Friday's) a big matchup. We're at home. We're trying to get on a roll here - it's the Clippers," swingman Jared Dudley said. "I expect a sellout crowd ... it should be exciting, hopefully we can come here with the fan support and come out with a win."