Postgame Central: Suns vs. Clippers - Dec. 23, 2012
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Suns Winning Streak Against Clippers Snapped
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Two streaks entered the US Airways Center on Sunday. One had to end.
Unfortunately for the Phoenix faithful, it was the Suns’ 11-game home winning streak over the Clippers, which ended with a 103-77 defeat to the Pacific Division leader at home.
In a battle between two of the best sharpshooting teams in the league, the Clippers got the better of the Suns in this matchup, drilling 65 percent of their shots in the first half. The Clippers, who are fourth in the league in field goal percentage, shot 54 percent on the night, including 54 percent from behind the arc, as they captured their league-leading 13th-straight win and snapped the Suns’ four-game home winning streak.
The 13-straight victories are an NBA high this season.
“That is the best team that we’ve played,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “They’re deep. They’ve got all the ingredients to be a championship team.”
Phoenix, which had won those four straight by an average of 11.3 points, were forced into too many turnovers by a team that is best in the league in forcing them. The Clippers, who force a league-leading 17.5 turnovers, caused the Suns to turn over the ball over 16 times through three periods.
Coming into tonight’s contest, Phoenix was fourth in the league in committing the least turnovers.
“Chris Paul, defensively, was a one-man wrecking crew,” Suns swingman Jared Dudley said. “They took us out of our whole offense that we wanted to get done and (force) turnovers. And defensively, we couldn’t stop them.”
Also during that four-game winning streak, the Suns were holding opponents to just 89.5 points a night, whereas they gave up 91 just in the first three quarters against the Clippers. It was just too much Paul, who at the end of the first quarter, collected 12 points, two assists and two steals in just over six minutes.
The Clippers All-Star playmaker finished with 17 points, 13 assists and five steals in 29 minutes of work, while teammate Blake Griffin racked up 23 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in 32 minutes. Meanwhile, the Clippers’ bench, which Gentry called the best in the league, outscored the Suns’ reserves by 20.
The turning point of the game came when they went on a 15-3 run to finish the first half.
“They’ve got athletic guys and they get after you,” Gentry said. “You get on the sideline and they do a great job of trapping you and take away the initial passes back. They force you to try to make skip passes and because they’re athletic they can get to them.”
However, offensively there were some bright spots for the Suns, with Dudley scoring 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Markieff Morris totaled 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while center Marcin Gortat contributed eight points and 12 rebounds.
The Suns host the Knicks on Wednesday.
The Suns are on the cusp – just two victories - of reaching the 2,000-win mark. Once they do so, they will become the fourth-fastest franchise in NBA history to accomplish that feat.
Only the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers will needed fewer games to reach the plateau than the Suns. In addition, the Suns entered the 2012-13 season with the fourth-highest all-time winning percentage.
Phoenix trails only the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics in that category.
The connections between these two Pacific Division franchises go back a way. Current Clippers Matt Barnes and Grant Hill both suited up for Phoenix, while Suns head coach Alvin Gentry coached the Clippers from 2000-03.
Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro not only played for the Suns from 2000-02, but he also served as a color analyst for the Suns broadcast team and held the role of director of player personnel and assistant GM in Phoenix’s front office. Lastly, Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni was an assistant coach with the Suns from 2002-07, while Clippers player development assistant Howard Eisley played for the Phoenix Suns in 2003-04.
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