Suns put up little resistance, Clippers win by 40

This is the soft part of the schedule for the Clippers, a four-game stretch in which they will face opponents that won't exactly strike fear into anyone.

So the challenge for the Clippers is to rise above that.

They did so Monday night, whipping the lowly Phoenix Suns, 124-84, at Staples Center, starting the string of playing the NBA's low-tier teams by producing their largest winning margin of the season.

In the eyes of Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, it was easy for his team to maintain its focus and it won't be hard going forward even though Los Angeles' next three opponents have a combined 59-106 record.

Rivers explained why.

“Well, we're not as good as Golden State, so we have to keep improving,” Rivers said. “That's what I tell our guys. Every practice and every game, it's playoff preparation and that's the mind-set.

“We've made changes. We have to catch up there. We told them. It's serious time now. So we're getting ready. We have to get better.”

With six Clippers scoring in double figures,the team built a 43-point lead, its largest of the season.

And even though none of their starters played in the fourth quarter, the Clippers sent the Suns to their 12th consecutive defeat and dropped their record to 14-43, the third-worst in the league.

Rivers said “it was great” to rest his starters, especially Chris Paul, who had suffered a bruised left thigh that forced him to leave the fourth quarter of the Golden State game Saturday night.

But in his 26 minutes 49 seconds against the Suns, Paul was back playing with yet another solid game, getting 16 points and 14 assists.

DeAndre Jordan was a force in the middle, dunking and making runners in the lane en route to 17 points and 11 rebounds. He was a force on defense, blocking four shots.

J.J. Redick shot his way to 22 points on a seven-for-14 performance, four for six on three-point attempts.

The Clippers opened the All-Star break playing against the two best teams in the NBA in San Antonio and Golden State, beating the Spurs and losing to the Warriors.

Those games easily got the Clippers' attention.

Then the schedule called for four games against sub-.500 teams, forcing the Clippers to focus on the task in front of them, starting with the Suns, who have won just four games on the road all season.

The Clippers next will host the Denver Nuggets (22-34) on Wednesday, travel to Sacramento (23-31) to face the Kings on Friday night and play Brooklyn (15-41) on Monday at home.

Then the Clippers will be challenged again when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-16) on March

“We just have to focus on us, as always,” Rivers said. “We just had two games against two really good teams. When teams are quote unquote, ‘out of the playoffs,' your team has to understand how important the game is for you and you can't worry about them.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 23, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Project Runaway is a model Clippers win - They put away the Suns to begin a stretch against lowly teams in which they'll need to keep their focus. - CLIPPERS 124, PHOENIX 84" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe