CLIPPERS WIN STREAK SNAPPED |
- RYAN MENEZES
Most of the last three quarters didn't resemble a shootout, but the last five minutes of the Clippers loss to the Suns saw points go on the scoreboard at a rapid pace.
A marquee point guard matchup turned into a display of crunch-time mastery, with both Steve Nash and Chris Paul trying to get the last word. Nash eventually would, making the go-ahead free throws that led to a 93-90 Suns win.
The Clippers had two chances on their last two possessions. Mo Williams missed a straightaway 3-pointer set up by a feed by Paul. Blake Griffin got one last look, catching a three-quarters court pass from Kenyon Martin at the top of the 3-point line, but his game-tying attempt hit the front rim.
Before Martin fouled Nash with the Suns in the bonus, the foul that led to the game-winning free throws, a couple of other Clippers mistakes did them in. Twice in the last five minutes they couldn't inbound the ball, the first leading to a 5-second violation and the second forcing the team to burn their last timeout.
The Clippers (39-24) fell a full game behind the Lakers for the No. 3 seed and Pacific Division lead. The No. 5 Grizzlies moved to within 1.5 games of the Clippers.
Difference Maker: Jared Dudley shot 7-of-14 and hit four 3-pointers en route to a team-high 18 points. He was held relatively in check until hitting a clutch 3-pointer, one that tied the game at 86, which were his only points of the fourth quarter.
Turning Point: After Nash banked in a layup high off the glass to tie the game, the Suns got a stop and found a Marcin Gortat streaking wide open down the court. Gortat went up for a one-handed dunk, but a trailing Randy Foye came in to contest the dunk late. Foye looked like he swatted the shot away, but was whistled for a foul that put Gortat at the line where he made one of two free throws to put Phoenix up one with 49.4 seconds to play.
"It was tough when you play that hard and whistles decide the game," Paul said. "Fans paid to see a good game and they saw a good one but a lot of whistles down the stretch."
Stat Line of the Night: Paul had 19 points and 10 assists. He shot 6-of-19 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
More Stats: Caron Butler once again got off to a hot start, making 3-of-4 shots in the first quarter. Butler finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
The Clippers got just 21 points from their bench, a night after nearly doubling that output. Martin led the reserves with eight points and seven rebounds.
Griffin had 16 points and 11 rebounds
Hot: Paul was once again extremely effective in crunch time, scoring the Clippers last six points.
Not: Griffin after the first quarter. After scoring 14 of the Clippers' first 29 points, Griffin failed to make a field goal. He was also a victim of a couple of hard fouls, the most vicious being a flagrant-2 called on Robin Lopez for pulling Griffin to the floor by his neck on a fast-break.
"It's not the first time," Griffin told TNT's David Aldridge, adding that his neck bothered him. "It's a part of the game. I don't think anybody is doing anything malicious or trying to hurt anybody."
On Robin Lopez's hard foul:
Griffin: "There is a line, there is definitely a line. When it gets crossed…you know you can push all the way up to that line, the line is pretty fine but once you cross it gets pretty dangerous. That's the way it's been going, so… I'll let every individual be the judge of that but I know what I felt and I know what the impact of the play was."
On failing to inbound the ball late:
Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro: "I wasn't pleased with the way we executed some of the side out of bounds; coming to the basketball, being more physical. We usually do a pretty good job of that but we didn't do that tonight."
On defending down the stretch:
Paul: "I felt like we played great defense down the stretch. We defended as well as we could have and tried to but I guess (referee) Kevin Fehr felt differently which it goes like that sometimes. "
Reggie Evans missed his second straight game with flu-like symptoms… The Clippers will not play on Friday or Saturday, their first time with consecutive off days since the All-Star Break. Before that, the Clippers last had two straight days off Jan. 23 and 24… DeAndre Jordan received a technical foul in the first quarter for using the rim to assist his jump, the second straight night he has committed that infraction. Jordan has five technicals this season.
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