Clippers-Suns Preview

The Associated Press

While the Los Angeles Clippers continue their push for a Pacific Division title, the Phoenix Suns are simply trying to qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The Clippers can match a season high with a sixth straight victory if they can snap a nine-game road skid to the Suns on Thursday night.

Having already clinched its first playoff berth since 2006, Los Angeles (39-23) is one-half game behind its rival and the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Lakers in its quest for the franchise's first division title. Chris Paul had 21 points with eight assists and Kenyon Martin added a tip-in and blocked shot in the final half-minute of the Clippers' 104-98 win at Denver on Wednesday.

"It's about winning basketball,'' said Martin, who has been a valuable reserve in 38 games for the Clippers since returning from playing in China this season. "Just never quit playing no matter what the situation is, always put yourself in a position to make plays. Just trying to get a 'W.' We're fighting for playoff position.

Though Los Angeles has won 13 of 15 overall and is in position to match a season high with a fourth consecutive road win, it faces a daunting challenge trying to prevail in Phoenix for the first time since a 103-99 victory April 17, 2007. A 10th consecutive road defeat to the Suns (32-30) would match the Clippers' longest current skid away from home to any opponent. Los Angeles has also dropped 10 in a row at Cleveland.

The Clippers matched their second-lowest point total this season while shooting 36.8 percent during an 81-78 loss at Phoenix on March 2. However, Los Angeles snapped a four-game overall skid to the Suns with a 103-86 home win March 28.

Blake Griffin had 27 points with 14 rebounds in that contest, but scored 17 on 6-of-19 shooting (31.6) and pulled down seven boards in last month's road loss to the Suns.

Phoenix hopes its past home success against the Clippers will provide a means of motivation as it tries to move back into playoff position in the West. The Suns have dropped three of five to fall to ninth in the conference, one-half game behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Suns look to bounce back from a 109-97 home loss to West-leading Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Jared Dudley had 21 points for Phoenix, which shot 41.0 percent, including 6 of 20 from 3-point range, while having its three-game home winning streak end.

"We didn't play sharp," star guard Steve Nash said. "Hopefully, we can wash this away and go for broke (Thursday)."

Dudley, who has totaled 39 points in the last two games, had 22 with seven rebounds and four assists in last month's home victory over the Clippers.

Nash, who has scored 20 points over the last three games, was held to a season-low one while recording 15 assists in the road loss to Los Angeles last month.

It's uncertain if Suns forward and defensive stalwart Grant Hill will miss a third straight game with a sore right knee.

"He could play, but I don't want to stick him out there unless I know he's OK," coach Alvin Gentry told the Suns' official website.

Phoenix is giving up 106.0 points per contest over the last five games.

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