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  • Jared Dudley will return to the starting lineup at small forward for the Suns when they play the Clippers today at Staples Center, coach Alvin Gentry announced. Dudley, who was the starting shooting guard before getting replaced by Shannon Brown two weeks ago, will replace Michael Beasley, who has been mired in a slump. Beasley sat out the fourth quarter of a three-point loss Thursday against visiting Dallas after shooting 3-for-12 and scoring nine points. Beasley is averaging 11.3 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 37.4 percent from the floor. Phoenix is trying to avoid its first six-game losing streak since March 2009.
  • P.J. Tucker was thought to have a chance to replace Beasley in the starting lineup but he suffered a sprained MCL in his knee against the Mavericks and will not play against the Clippers, the team announced. Wes Johnson should see increased playing time against L.A. “The Suns have enough weapons where they can spread you out,” said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. “Shannon Brown’s athletic. He has hurt us in the past.”
  • Not much is going wrong for the Clippers these days. Chauncey Billups is sidelined with an inflamed tendon in his left foot, the same foot that required surgery to a torn Achilles last February, but otherwise L.A. is healthy and on a roll. The Clippers have won four straight games and scored at least 29 points in eight of the last 11 quarters. L.A. is averaging 101.5 points a game and will be up against a Phoenix team that’s allowing 102.7. The Clippers are second in the NBA in points in the paint and points off turnovers and tied for first in fast-break points. “They’re a really good team,” said Gentry, who coached the Clippers for three seasons from 2000-03. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be talking about an opportunity to win a championship.”
  • Getting a lead and maintaining it will be key for the Clippers. They went 1-3 against the Suns last season, blowing leads of at least nine points in each game. Now that they have one of the highest-scoring benches in the league, led by the team’s leading scorer, Jamal Crawford, the Clippers have been much better this season and maintaining leads throughout the game. They led wire-to-wire in their last game, a 22-point victory Wednesday against the visiting Mavericks.

– Dan Arritt

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