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Thursday, April 19, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Suns

By Arash Markazi

Clippers (39-23) vs. Phoenix Suns (32-30) at US Airways Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Phoenix rising: It has been somewhat of a roller-coaster season for the Phoenix Suns, but they have had success whenever they have played the Clippers, especially in Phoenix. The Suns have won two of three meetings this season against the Clippers and overcome double-digits to win both games. All four meetings this season have come after the All-Star break. Phoenix has won nine-straight home games over the Clippers, who last won in Phoenix on April 17, 2007. Phoenix has won 24 of the last 31 meetings, including 16 of the last 19 and Suns coach Alvin Gentry, who used to coach the Clippers, is 11-2 against his old team since taking over as head coach in Phoenix.

2. Playoff push: While the Clippers are just a half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the Pacific Division lead and the No. 3 seed, the Suns are just a half game behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. Phoenix was six games under .500 at the All-Star break and is trying to become the first Western Conference team since the 1996-97 Suns to earn a playoff berth after entering the break six or more games under .500.  The Suns are 18-10 (.643) since the All-Star break. Among Western Conference teams, only San Antonio (21-6) and the Lakers (20-9) have a better record. Overall, only the Spurs, Lakers, Chicago (20-7), Boston (22-9) and Indiana (19-10) own a better record since the break.

3. Streaking: The Clippers have won five straight and 13 of their last 15 games since March 24. The Clippers' 13-2 record equals the best 15-game stretch in franchise history. The Clippers had three 13-2 runs during the 1978-79 season, when they were known as the Buffalo Braves. The Clippers are also on the verge of winning six straight games twice in one season. They hadn’t won six straight in 20 years before doing so to begin this 15-game run. The Clippers have also won three road games in a row. The Clippers are 16-14 (.533) on the road this season and are attempting to finish the season with a .500 or better road record for the first time since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. The most road wins for the Los Angeles Clippers was 20 when they went 20-21 during the 2005-06 season.

4. Nash v. CP3: Steve Nash is 10 assists shy of passing Oscar Robertson for fifth on the NBA’s all-time list. It will leave Nash behind only all-time leader John Stockton, active leader Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson in NBA history. Nash is second in the NBA in assists (10.8) and has led the NBA in assists five times in the last seven seasons, including last year. Chris Paul is just behind Nash in third place in assists this season but first in steals (2.47). This season Paul is pace to be one of five players in NBA history with a season of at least 19.0 points 9.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

5. Moving up: The Clippers are 16 games over .500 (39-23) this season. It's the third time the Clippers have been more than five games over .500 this many games into a season since moving to L.A. They finished the season eight games over .500 in 1991-92 and 12 games over .500 in 2005-06. The Clippers already surpassed their victory total from last season on April 5, and their 39 wins are the most for the club since winning 40 in 2006-07. The Clippers' 39-23 record after 62 games is the best record in franchise history, equaling the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.