Suns-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The Phoenix Suns are expected to get one of their top scorers back no later than midweek.

There's a chance, though, Eric Bledsoe might play in Monday night's visit to his former team, the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers.

Bledsoe hasn't been available for Phoenix since undergoing surgery for a torn right meniscus Jan. 10. The point guard was averaging career highs of 18.0 points and 5.8 assists in his first season with the Suns after three with the Clippers, who traded him July 10.

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Phoenix's second-leading scorer is expected to return Wednesday against Cleveland, but coach Jeff Hornacek didn't rule out him playing Monday.

"I'm looking forward to it," Bledsoe said. "The doctors have cleared me to play so I'm ready to go."

Should he return against the Clippers, Bledsoe will try to help the Suns (36-26) regain sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Phoenix dropped into a tie with Memphis after a 113-107 loss at Golden State on Sunday. The Grizzlies, who hold the tiebreaker because of their 3-0 record against the Suns, play their next game Tuesday at home against Portland.

The Suns cut a 15-point deficit with 7 1/2 minutes to play down to four with 38 seconds left Sunday but then committed a pair of late mistakes. Gerald Green stepped out of bounds with 11 seconds left and Marcus Morris air-balled a 3-pointer with eight to go.

"Certain things you can get away with on certain nights, but when you're playing a team like this - a team that's been in the playoffs - you have to be solid for 48 minutes," Green said.

Phoenix would appear to have a difficult task as it tries to avoid dropping into ninth place in the West. The Pacific Division-leading Clippers (44-20) have won a season-high seven in a row but were taken to the wire in a 109-108 victory over visiting Atlanta on Saturday.

Los Angeles blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of that game, but Chris Paul's layup with 55 seconds left put it ahead for good. The Clippers also needed DeAndre Jordan's block and Paul's steal along with a missed free throw from Jeff Teague to come away with the win.

Los Angeles was coming off a 48-point thumping of the rival Lakers on Thursday, its most lopsided win in franchise history.

"The name of the game is winning. So obviously, we're happy we won. But there's a lot of things we need to clean up," Paul said.

The Clippers earned a 104-96 win in Phoenix on Tuesday as part of their current streak as Matt Barnes led the way with a season-high 28 points. He made 12 of his first 13 shots and scored 16 of his points in the first 5:09 of the third quarter to help Los Angeles outscore the Suns 37-18 in that period.

Phoenix won the only other meeting this season and snapped a three-game road losing streak to the Clippers with a 107-88 victory Dec. 30. Goran Dragic led the way with 26 points and eight assists in that game, and Green added 21 off the bench.

Green had a career-high 41 points in Thursday's 128-122 win over Oklahoma City and a team-best 25 in Sunday's loss.

Bledsoe matched a season low with his seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in his only matchup against his former team in December. He averaged 6.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 197 games with the Clippers.

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