The stage was set for the apprentice to meet the mentor here Monday night but the Clippers were the ones getting schooled by the Suns.

Once the Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe from under Chris Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers shadow in July, the speculation about trading Goran Dragic grew because the Suns had a new star guard. The questions about whether Dragic could play off the ball swelled because some thought Bledsoe would dominate.

When Bledsoe met Paul for the first official time Monday at Staples Center, the best guard on the floor was in the form of a fire-breathing, roaring Dragon. Dragic scored 20 points and posted a career-high tying five steals in the first half, the Suns’ best half of the season that led to a 107-88 rout over the Pacific Division-leading Clippers.

That Clippers’ lead is now an eyelash (Clippers at 21-12, Suns at 19-11), especially with how thoroughly the Suns dominated a Clippers team that had gone 13-2 and averaged 111 points at home until Phoenix hopped on the Dragon’s wings. It was an appropriately shocking blowout to close their 2013 schedule with a win total that matches what Las Vegas oddsmakers had predicted they would get for the season.

The Suns put on their best two-way performance of the season, holding the Clippers to 36.5 percent shooting with an active, physical defense that had 21 first-half deflections and an offense with a relentless pace.

“We really pushed the ball tonight,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “The way we pushed the ball in those first two and a half quarters is what we want all the time. Eric and Goran did a great job of rushing it upcourt and they couldn’t get their defense set.”

It was a 61-40 Suns halftime lead because of more than just Dragic, although it was nearly enough for his penetration to help him make eight of his first nine shots while still handing out four first-half assists. He watched the fourth quarter after getting 26 points, 8 assists and 5 steals in 32 minutes, with the Suns outscoring the Clippers by 27 in his time.

“Jeff mentioned before the game that we have to put our pace on,” Dragic said. “I talk with all the players that if we play fast, it’s much tougher to stop us because we get layups and open 3s. If Channing (Frye), Gerald (Green) and Tuck (P.J. Tucker) space the floor and knock shots down, it’s really tough to stop us.”

The Suns might have won on the strength of Dragic but they disheartened the Clippers with a strong-rotating defense led by Channing Frye’s effort on Blake Griffin, who was coming off scoring games of 35 and 40 points and had 15 on Monday. Frye had success on Griffin dating back to 2011 and he recaptured as if he had never been out of basketball for a year and half. He used his length inside and stayed planted strong on Griffin’s back in the post.