The Phoenix Suns took one on the chin last night in a crucial loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, putting a damper on their slim postseason hopes.
The Suns will try to get back into the race tonight versus the Los Angeles Clippers in the continuation of a four-game homestand, and sit one-half game behind Utah for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference with four games to play. Houston is also one-half game behind the Jazz.
Jared Dudley netted 21 points and Marcin Gortat had nine and 12 rebounds in a 109-97 setback for Phoenix, which lost for the third time in five games. Channing Frye scored 13 points and Steve Nash ended with 12 points, five assists and five turnovers.
"Win three out of four and you're probably into the playoffs. This is what we wanted," said Dudley.
Phoenix will also host Denver in the desert and is 18-12 at home.
The Clippers already locked up their first postseason berth since 2005-06 and are now aiming for a Pacific Division title. They sit just one-half game behind the rival Lakers for the top spot in the division and the third seed in the conference. The Lakers are idle Thursday.
In a 104-98 victory at Denver last night, Chris Paul scored 21 points and handed out eight assists, while Kenyon Martin tipped in the go-ahead basket in the final minute and blocked Nuggets guard Ty Lawson on the ensuing possession. Blake Griffin had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
"It's about winning basketball. You never quit playing, no matter what the situation is," said Martin. "Always put yourself in position to make plays. It was perfect timing."
The Clippers have won five straight and 13 of 15 games, and are 16-14 away from home. They have lost two of three meetings with Phoenix this season and 16 of the previous 19 games in the series. The Clippers have also lost nine straight in the Valley of the Sun.