|Clippers fall short against short-handed Suns|
- Eric Patten @ericpatten
LOS ANGELES–It’s a game that had little explanation.
The Clippers, who led by as many as 17 points against a team without arguably its best two players, made more shots, grabbed more rebounds, and tallied more assists than the Suns.
Still, Phoenix found a way to “steal” a 91-87 win Thursday night at Staples Center.
“We gave the game away,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “We should have won.”
With the Suns (21-22) in the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back, head coach Alvin Gentry rested Steve Nash and Grant Hill. But despite being outplayed for most of the game, they held the Clippers (24-18) to just 12 points in the fourth quarter and three over the final 3:47.
Difference Maker: Shannon Brown. The former Laker scored a season-high 21 points, shooting 8-of-10 from the free throw line and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. He also made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing, giving the Suns an 87-85 lead.
Turning Point: After the Clippers stretched the lead to 47-30 in the second quarter, they had a chance to put the undermanned Suns away, but Phoenix put together a 9-0 run over the final 2:32 punctuated by a Markieff Morris dunk with 1.7 seconds left in the half.
Stat Line of the Night: Chris Paul neared a triple-double in the first half, amassing six assists and six rebounds with four points. He finished with 11 assists, seven boards, and 10 points, including a right-left-right crossover on Sebastian Telfair for an acrobatic layup near the end of the third quarter. Less than a minute later, he grabbed an offensive rebound, drove baseline and kicked out to Mo Williams for a 3-pointer.
More Stats: Blake Griffin. He scored a game-high 25 points with eight rebounds, four assists, and ferocious rejection of a Marcin Gortat hook shot.
Channing Frye. The Suns forward made four of his six 3-pointers for 12 points, blocked three shots, and had six rebounds. Four Suns had six boards to lead the team.
Hot: Caron Butler. After being mired in a near month long slump, Butler scored in double-figures for the second consecutive game. He had 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Not: The Clippers at the free throw line. They went 5-for-12 (41.7%) compared to Phoenix’s 18-for-23 effort. Worse yet, the Suns were whistled for one shooting foul, resulting in two missed free throws by Griffin.
On the team’s performance:
Vinny Del Negro: “Obviously, I’m not pleased with the effort. From start to finish, I didn’t think our energy was very good. We had opportunities to take control of the game, but we didn’t. They [the Suns] made a run in the fourth quarter on us and we didn’t respond very well.”
Blake Griffin: “It was lost by us not having a sense of urgency down the stretch, giving them open shots, offensive rebounds, and having costly turnovers.”
On the win for the Suns:
Alvin Gentry: “It was a great win for us because obviously we didn’t have our best two players on the floor, and we didn’t have the guy who is the engine to our whole team.”
Notes: The Clippers shot 56% in the first quarter, for their fifth straight quarter shooting 47% or better… The Suns have come back to win seven games in March trailing by 10 or more... It’s third loss in the Clippers last four home games. They’ve fallen to fifth in Western Conference standing, 0.5 games behind the Grizzlies for fourth… With 3:47 to go in the game the Suns intentionally fouled Griffin, who made 1-of-2 free throws. The Suns used the same tactic twice more against DeAndre Jordan. Jordan made three of the four attempts from the line… After the game Paul talked about new teammate Nick Young, who was acquired from the Wizards earlier in the day. “I’m excited for him. He’s an unbelievable player, a young player. He’s coming home. I think he can only help our team.”
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