Clippers host Suns in Pacific battle

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( - The Phoenix Suns begin a huge road trip, starting Saturday night when they visit the Staples Center to take on the defending Pacific Division champs, the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Suns have hit the road for only two of their nine games thus far in the 2014-15 campaign. Things change starting Saturday with the stop in Los Angeles.

Phoenix will visit the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors during the long sojourn out of town.

On Friday, at home, the Suns squandered a 14-point lead en route to a 103-95 setback at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets.

The Suns got as close as four down the stretch, but three straight layups by Charlotte and four free throws from Gary Neal sealed the Hornets' first road win of the season (1-4).

Eric Bledsoe had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns and Marcus Morris had 17 points. Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee and Goran Dragic scored 12 apiece in the loss, which dropped Phoenix to 2-3 on a five-game homestand after two straight wins.

The Suns bench was outscored 43-20 by Charlotte's. Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix's second-unit star, managed only nine points.

"Our bench got thoroughly beat by those guys," said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.

The Clippers have dropped three of their last five and are 1-1 thus far on a four-game homestand. They beat the Portland Trail Blazers one week ago, but fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 89-85, on Monday.

Chris Paul's runner staked the Clippers to an 82-75 advantage with 5:49 left, but endured a five-plus minute scoreless drought as San Antonio ripped off 12 unanswered points.

Jamal Crawford was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 25.8 ticks remaining and made all three to pull LA within 87-85 before Manu Ginobili missed a pair of free throws at the other end.

Paul's driving layup, however, didn't drop and Blake Griffin was called for a technical foul while he attempted to call a timeout on the floor with 1.4 seconds to go. The Clippers didn't have any timeouts left.

Tony Parker missed the technical freebie, but Kawhi Leonard sunk two foul shots to seal the outcome.

"A hard loss," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "In the last four or five minutes of the game, we had some bad turnovers. Too many empty possessions. Give them credit, they did a lot of good things down the stretch."

Griffin tallied 23 points, 10 boards and six assists, while Paul finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine helpers for Los Angeles. JJ Redick chipped in 13 and Crawford finished with 10.

Saturday's game will be Griffin's first since being charged with assault earlier in the week. The charge stems from an alleged altercation with a man using a camera inside a Las Vegas nightclub last month, TMZ and the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday evening.

The Clippers have won three straight against the Suns and four of their last five as the host in this series.