Wizards-Clippers Preview

The Washington Wizards' final push for the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot starts in a place they haven't won in over eight years.

Not to mention the opponent is expected to finally get its leading scorer back.

The rested Los Angeles Clippers hope to start jelling for the postseason with the return of Blake Griffin on Sunday at Staples Center while simultaneously derailing the Wizards' last-ditch effort to get there.

Washington (37-39) snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 2-2 on its five-game trip with Friday's much-needed 106-99 victory at Phoenix. The win came on the heels of Wednesday's disappointing 120-111 loss at Sacramento in which Bradley Beal said his team "gave up."

However, the Wizards are still within striking distance of the East's No. 8 seed, though they need to pass two teams to get there.

A good first step would be snapping a seven-game skid against the Clippers at Staples, where the Wizards haven't beaten them since Feb. 13, 2008. A 108-91 victory in Washington D.C. on Dec. 28 gave Los Angeles 12 wins in the last 14 of this series.

That was just the second game without Griffin for the Clippers (47-28), who are likely locked into the fourth spot in the West.

The five-time All-Star was posting MVP-caliber numbers with 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, but he hasn't played since Christmas because of a torn quadriceps and fractured hand, the second injury from punching a team employee that also cost him a four-game suspension.

The Clippers, who went 30-15 without their star, are expected to plug Griffin back into the starting lineup for their final seven games hoping to build him up to the 34.9 minutes he averaged previously.

"We always say we can get through the regular season and win a lot of games, but our goal is to win a championship," Paul Pierce told the team's official website.

"We know we can't do that without Blake, so it's going to be good to get him back for the last few games of the season so he can get his legs under him, and hopefully we can get a hot streak going into the playoffs."

The Clippers, who are 25-12 at Staples Center, offset a 1-5 stretch with four straight wins and then used Thursday's 119-117 loss at Oklahoma City as a chance to rest Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick.

With two more back-to-back sets left on the schedule, coach Doc Rivers said he may rest his starters again. In the meantime, he was happy with the 32 points the Clippers got from both his son Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford.

After their demoralizing loss to the Kings, the Wizards rallied from an eight-point third-quarter deficit to pick up a win over the lowly Suns and keep their dim playoff hopes alive.

John Wall had 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Beal and Markieff Morris each scored 21 to help Washington to just its second win in the last six games.

The Wizards have surrendered an average of 119 points on 51.6 percent shooting in their four losses during their down stretch compared to 93.5 points on 38.3 percent in their two wins.

"When we play defense and we're locked in, we're a totally different team," Wall said. "It's the end of the season, there's only six games left, but that's something we've been preaching all year."

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