Suns Rally Falls Just Short in Preseason Loss to Clippers

Barry Gossage/NBAE

With Phoenix trailing the Clippers by 16 with just over five minutes left, both teams went to their respective benches.

The Suns’ reserves made the move an energetic response rather than an admission of defeat.

A quintet of Kendall Marshall, Miles Plumlee, Slava Kravtsov, Archie Goodwin and Gerald Green sliced the deficit to a single point over the next five minutes. Plumlee dunked. Green hit a jumper. Marcus Morris made a shot before being subbed out for Kravtsov. He and Marshall alternated between scoring and passing over the next few plays, culminating in a Kravtsov assist to Plumlee that saw the Suns trailing just 95-94 with 38 seconds left.

The Clippers held off the rally, finding former Sun Lou Amundson rolling to the basket for a two-handed jam that bumped the lead back to three. Ryan Hollins blocked Marshall’s driving shot on the ensuing possession, and L.A. held on for the102-96 win.

Head Coach Jeff Hornacek praised the Suns’ effort after seeing Phoenix fight back from double-digit deficits multiple times in a single game.

“It doesn’t matter who’s on the court, for them, for us, you don’t give up,” Hornacek said. “I think it was a 15-point game and I said, ‘hey, four-and-a-half minutes is a long time. Continue to play.’ That’s what they did. They clawed right in there and came close.”

Los Angeles jumped out to an early lead thanks to the efforts of Chris Paul (23 points, eight assists) and DeAndre Jordan (11 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks). Phoenix countered in the second quarter behind Channing Frye, who played in his first home game since April 21, 2012. His return was a loud one: 11 points in the second quarter, including a trio of three-pointers that kept the Suns within striking distance.

Phoenix came out of halftime intent on turning in a better defensive effort. After allowing 63 first-half points, the Suns held the Clippers to just three over the first eight minutes of the third quarter.

Marshall said the starters’ energy to start the second half led to the reserves’ fourth-quarter rally.

“It started with the guys that were playing the majority of the game,” he said. “When that first unit went out there to start the third quarter and went on that run, I think they got it down to five. It kind of showed us that we can play with these guys. When we went on the court, Gerald and Archie made great defensive plays, finished in transition, so that does become contagious when the whole team is playing hard.”

DRAGIC, BLEDSOE CONTINUE TO MESH

The Suns’ backcourt duo showed further progress as a tandem in Tuesday night’s loss, particularly with Dragic playing off the ball. Bledsoe continually found his teammate open after drives into the paint, and the Slovenian guard cashed in for 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Bledsoe ended the game with eight points, seven assists and four steals in 28 minutes of play.

“That’s how the flow of the game went,” Bledsoe said. “Goran does a great job of running the floor and getting to the open spot. I saw him and I threw it to him.”

LINEUP CHANGES CONTINUE

Hornacek rolled out his fourth different starting lineup in as many games, going with Dragic, Bledsoe, Plumlee, Marcin Gortat and James Nunnally.

Eleven players in all logged double-digit minutes as the Suns’ head coach tried to pair roster hopefuls with regulars.

“We want to try to get everybody in a position with some of the main guys to really, accurately judge them,” Hornacek said before the game. “If you put some of these guys out there with another group, it’s kind of unfair to them. We’ll switch it up a little bit tonight and maybe the Sacramento game one more time. After that we’ve got to narrow [the rotation] down.”