Game #76 | April 2, 2014
US Airways Center | Phoenix, AZ
PHOENIX – For the second straight year, the Clippers clinched the Pacific Division title against a desperate division opponent.
They did it last year against the Lakers at home and on Wednesday, with six games remaining in the regular season, they came from 17 points down in the second half to steal away a must-have game for the Suns, 112-108, at U.S. Airways Center.
It was the third double-digit comeback victory in the last four games for the Clippers (54-22). They are two wins away from matching their franchise record of 56, set last season. And they closed out their five-game road trip with four straight wins to capture their second division crown in a row, following a 41-year drought from 1970 to 2012.
“It’s something to be proud of, but by no means is it something that we’re aiming for,” Blake Griffin said of the division title. “We’ve got much bigger goals.”
Chris Paul scored 23 points with nine assists and three steals, Darren Collison had 23 points, five assists, and three steals, Matt Barnes scored 19 points with six rebounds and Griffin, who returned from a one-game absence due to lower back spasms, scored 23 points with six rebounds.
“It actually felt pretty good at the beginning just because of all of the treatment and all that,” Griffin said of his ailing back. “It just got a little tight towards the end, but nothing I haven’t felt before or played with before. So, that’s encouraging.”
The loss for the Suns (44-31) evened their record with Memphis and Dallas. The three teams have identical records, but the Suns fell from seventh to night in the West due to tiebreakers.
On Wednesday everything unraveled in the fourth quarter for Phoenix.
They scored just 17 points in the final period, and when the game got close the Clippers made the plays that mattered. Griffin laid in a missed jumper. Paul missed a fall away as the shot clock expired, but Barnes out jumped P.J. Tucker to tip the ball away and force a jump ball after a wild scramble on the floor with 15 seconds left.
And Collison rejected Eric Bledsoe’s layup from behind with 10.9 seconds to go. The ball ricocheted off of Dudley and touched Bledsoe’s leg out of bounds. It was the third replay review in the final two minutes for an out of bounds call. All three plays went in favor of the Clippers.
“We just fought,” Collison said. “We fought on the defensive end and made all of the right plays on offense. We were moving the ball.”
The Clippers’ comeback started in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter with a lineup of four reserves and Collison on the floor. They scored 16 of the first 22 points of the period, a run that was capped by a 3-pointer by Jared Dudley that pulled the Clippers to within three.
Minutes later, Dudley gave the Clippers their first lead since late in the second quarter when he converted a pair of free throws. Paul drained a 32-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to answer a runner by Bledsoe, who had 14 points against his former team. Griffin’s put-back layup made it 110-106 and Dudley helped ice the game with 8.1 seconds to go with two more free throws.
Dudley finished with 12 points in 24 minutes in his second game in Phoenix since being traded from the Suns to the Clippers this summer. He was a major part of the comeback, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter, including his four free throws down the stretch and his 3-pointer that cut Phoenix’s lead to 97-94.
As he did 48 hours ago, Dudley took on the never say die attitude that has become something of a Clipper staple over the last few months. Rivers isn’t sure what that means going forward, but the ability to come back from large deficits bodes well at the moment for the division champions.
“I just think guys believe that we can win games even when we’re down,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if that’s who we were at the beginning of the year. I don’t even know what that means later, but at least we believe we can win a game when things are going bad for us.”
It was only the fourth time, and first since 2010, that Collison scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games… Paul has three steals in eight straight games, matching Allen Iverson for the most since 2003-04... The Clippers went 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from 3-point range… Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald was in attendance… Phoenix had eight players in double figure scoring… DeAndre Jordan had 11 rebounds in 29 minutes… The Clippers went 27-of-30 from the foul line, while the Suns were 28-of-33…
HEAD COACH DOC RIVERS
“To be the fifth game on the road trip and to be down 17 and to comeback, you know we won the game because of our second unit. We had our entire second unit on the floor running whatever, I ‘m not even sure what we were running, but they got stops and some scores and they cut it to 6 when the starters came back in. I thought that was the difference. Honestly, when we were down 17, I was thinking if we didn’t cut into it, I was just going to keep them out on the floor but then they cut into the lead so quickly. It was great, a lot of character. This was a character win for us. I think we just find ways to win. We believe we can win every game. I just think every time you do that it gives you the belief that you can do it again and that’s good for us. ”
(On winning Pacific division)
“It’s an accomplishment and something to be proud of but by no means is that what we’re aiming for. We have much bigger goals. That’s one of them on the way to it. What is this, our third 50 win season? And we clinched our third playoff spot? Hopefully those things become less and less of a big deal. They remain a staple in our franchise. It’s definitely something to be proud of, I don’t want to dismiss that at all but those are small goals on the way to our bigger goal.”
“We really just kept saying we’re not out of the game, they’re going to let us back in. The way they play, they’re never out of a game and we’re never out of a game. The way they play, they’re a good team, they’re a great team. They play really well when they’re free, they get everything going and play really well and we just want to keep putting pressure on them and make them tighten up a little bit.”
(On winning Pacific division)
“It’s nice but it doesn’t mean much. We won the division title last year and lost in the first round. We just play, Last year we would have gone into the game knowing we had a chance to win the division, now we don’t care. It’s all about the bigger picture.”
“I told Willie that second unit even lifted my spirits. We came to the bench and we just couldn’t get anything to go right. The way they started that fourth quarter, and Willie hit that three from the corner to cut it to seven, I was like let’s go, let’s go. It says a lot about our team, it’s been like that all season. We never give up, we keep fighting.”
PHOENIX SUNS HEAD COACH JEFF HORNACEK
“We were telling them at the timeout that we need to get the ball up the court quicker. We’re trying to run a play and by the time we get into the play, there’s 13 seconds on the shot clock. So it doesn’t give you a lot of options and all of a sudden they see the clock going down and the guy wants to go one-on-one. Maybe that’s a conditioning thing for some of the guys. They’re not able to play the 40 minutes like some of these other guys but it looked like Chris Paul had all the energy in the world at the end of the game. Maybe that’s our fault for not getting them in better shape.”
(On knowing Memphis lost earlier)
“We can’t worry about other teams. It was a home game for us and we had a lead. We told the guys again, it’s like a broken record we tell them all the time, we can’t have a two to three minute loll against these top teams.”
(On losing the 50-50 balls)
“There was a couple rebounds in there…They just crashed hard; they didn’t worry about getting anything called on them. They just went for the rebounds, I’m sure I’ll look at the tape and see that we want the rebounds too but we just didn’t box them out and they got to them quicker than we did.”
Postgame: Doc Rivers | 4/2/2014Doc Rivers addresses the media after tonight's win over the Suns.
Postgame: Blake Griffin | 4/2/2014Blake Griffin addresses the media after tonight's win over the Suns.
Assist of the NightDarren Collison tosses up the high lob for the alley-oop finish by DeAndre Jordan.
Clippers vs. Suns: First halfDarren Collison has 17 points but Marcus Morris' 16 points leads the Suns over the Clippers by two at the half.
Collison to JordanDeAndre Jordan rises to the rafters to throw down the high lob from Darren Collison.
Pregame: Doc Rivers | 4/2/2014Doc Rivers talks about tonight's match-up against the Phoenix Suns, and gives an update on Blake Griffin's status.
DeAndre Jordan Shootaround - 4/2/14DeAndre Jordan explains why the Clippers have been so resilient this season.
Doc Rivers Shootaround - 4/2/14Doc Rivers gives updates on Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin's status and more.
LACtv Preview: Clippers at SunsClippers close out their road trip Wednesday night in Phoenix.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin: Make a Wish FoundationChris Paul and Blake Griffin made three wishes come true when they met with young fans that were suffering from various forms of cancer. Video courtesy of Fox Sports West.
Darren Collison Defensive FeatureDarren Collison talks about his defense. Video courtesy of Fox Sports West.
Postgame: Chris Paul | 3/31/2014Chris Paul addresses the media after tonight's 114-104 victory over the Timberwolves.
Postgame: Doc Rivers | 3/31/2014Doc Rivers addresses the media after tonight's 114-104 victory over the Timberwolves.
Postgame: Jared Dudley | 3/31/2014Jared Dudley addresses the media after tonight's 114-104 victory over the Timberwolves.
Darren turns on the JetsDarren Collison turns on the jets and accelerates to the rim for the nice lay-in.
Collison Lobs to JordanDarren Collison throws it up to DeAndre Jordan for the sick slam.
Clippers vs. TimberwolvesDarren Collison has 28 points and seven assists and the Clippers defeat the Timberwolves 114-104 on Monday night.
Doc Rivers Pregame - 3/31/14Doc Rivers provides injury updates on Jamal, Blake and JJ prior to the game in Minnesota.
LACtv Preview: Clippers at TwolvesBlake Griffin a game time decision as Clippers face the Timberwolves Monday night in Minnesota.
|CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE GAME »|
|Chris Paul and Blake Griffin Named to 2014 All-NBA Team June 04, 2014||Chris Paul All-Defensive First Team June 02, 2014||Spirit Dance Team: Clippers vs. Thunder | Game 6 | 5/15/2014 May 16, 2014||Game Action: Clippers vs. Thunder: Game 6 | 5/15/2014 May 16, 2014|
|Clippers vs. Thunder: Game 6 | 5/15/2014 May 15, 2014||Game 5 | Clippers vs. Thunder | 5/13/2014 May 13, 2014|
By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten
At this rate, the Clippers might be able to put any five players on the court in the starting lineup and still give themselves a chance to win. After going 13-6 without Chris Paul, the Clippers have won the last two games without Blake Griffin (Griffin left Saturday’s win with 5:49 left in the first quarter due to back spasms and did not play Monday).
They have the league’s second best record since Jan. 1, and they have done it without Jamal Crawford (calf/Achilles) who along with Griffin is doubtful Wednesday when the Clippers (53-22) close out their five-game road trip against the Phoenix Suns (44-30) at U.S. Airways Center.
The Clippers have won 16 of their last 18 games, including three in a row on their current trip. Phoenix is 8-2 in its last 10, but lost to the Clippers twice in the last month.
As it has been for much of the last couple of weeks, Wednesday will be yet another pseudo playoff matchup. The Suns enter the game with a tenuous hold on eighth in the West. They’re half a game ahead of No. 9 Dallas and in a virtual tie with Memphis for seventh. A victory for the Clippers in their second to last road game of the year could move them to 3.5 games clear of Houston for third.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH ON PRIME TICKET
- The Clippers’ so-called “Magic Number” for clinching their second Pacific Division title in franchise history is two over Golden State. They can clinch the division on Wednesday with a win over the Suns AND a loss by the Warriors at San Antonio.
- Jared Dudley returns to his former home for the second time this regular season and his coming off his best game in two months. Dudley, who may start for the second game in a row in place of an ailing Blake Griffin (back), scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Timberwolves on Monday. It was the first time Dudley reached double figures since Jan. 15 when he had 10 points. On Wednesday Dudley returns to the place where he averaged 10 points or more in each of the last three seasons and became a fan favorite. Even a nearby restaurant still has a chicken sandwich named after the former Suns forward.
- Former Clipper Eric Bledsoe and guard Goran Dragic have made up quite a tandem in the backcourt for Phoenix. Serving as dual point guards, Bledsoe and Dragic have each scored 16 points in the same game 13 times this year with the Suns going undefeated. It’s happened in each of their last five wins. Similarly, the Clippers are 12-1 when Collison and Paul start together. Collison and Paul are arguably the backcourt most suited to matchup with Phoenix’s top two scorers.
The Clippers are 22-17 on the road and Phoenix is 25-13 at home. One of those losses is to the Clippers… The Clippers and Suns are two of the top three scoring teams in the NBA at home. Phoenix averages 108.2 points per game at U.S. Airways Center, while the Clippers lead the league at 110.6 points per game at Staples Center… Dragic has scored 20 points or more in 27 of the last 45 games for Phoenix… Collison averaged 15.5 points per game in the month of March…
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doc Rivers: “It’s tough, but it’s part of being a teammate. It really is and sometimes you don't always get it exactly the way you want it. But you can still be a part of something very successful and that’s what the others decided to do.”
LAC: J.J. Redick (back) will likely miss his 25th game in a row. Danny Granger (strained left hamstring) is not with the team. And Griffin (back) and Crawford (Achilles) are doubtful.
PHX: Leandro Barbosa (hand) and Emeka Okafor (back) remain out.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES HISTORY
All Time: 71-128 (Home: 48-53, Road: 23-75)
Road Streak: Won 1
Largest Margin of Victory:
Dec. 30, 2013 at Staples Center: Suns 107, Clippers 88
LAST TIME OUT
Pts: Collison 28