GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. SUNS - 3/4/14
Game #62 | March 4, 2014
US Airways Center | Phoenix, AZ
PHOENIX – There was a point Tuesday when the game was getting away from the Clippers. They were unable to get stops, giving up transition baskets to a wily Suns team, and were down by a dozen points.
Then the third quarter, and Matt Barnes, happened.
Barnes scored 18 of his season-high 28 points in the third and the Clippers outscored Phoenix by 19 on their way to a hard-earned, 104-96, victory at U.S. Airways Center.
All five starters scored in double-figures for the Clippers (42-20), who won for the fifth straight time, matching their season-best win streak, and moved within percentage points of the Houston Rockets for No. 3 in the Western Conference.
“In the second half, I thought everybody was in the right spots,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We were rotating. We played with intensity, great focus in the second half. Matt’s shots got us going, the offensive part, but I thought the defense won the game.”
DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks, including swatting away a Goran Dragic layup in the fourth quarter that would have pulled the Suns to within three with under a minute remaining. Blake Griffin added 22 points, six assists and five rebounds; Chris Paul had 14 points and nine assists; and Darren Collison, starting for the second game in a row, had 18 points and five assists.
It was the 11th time this season the Clippers starters have all reached double-digits. They are undefeated in those games. Collison, who scored 11 points in the first half when the Clippers struggled to keep up with the Suns (35-25), said it was one of the more balance all-around performances from the Clippers all season.
“Any time we can get a performance like that out of the starting lineup, it’s good for us,” Collison said. “The starting unit the last couple of games has been playing extremely well.”
It was the starting group that most helped open up a lead as large as 15 points before an 11-0 run by the Suns made it 90-86. But Jordan nailed a put-back layup and Collison converted a pair of free throws to grow the lead back to eight and Jordan, who had six rebounds in the fourth quarter, helped put the game away on the defensive end.
He erased Dragic’s layup, tracked down the ball a few inches from the sideline and was fouled immediately by the Suns. Jordan made both of the ensuing free throws.
His play as well as a turnaround bank shot from Griffin on the left block helped seal the game for the Clippers, who avenged a blowout loss to Phoenix at Staples Center in December. And they did it by ratcheting up the intensity they felt lacked in the previous game and playing a wholesale better game defensively.
“Right before we started the second half, we talked about how much we wanted to pick up the defensive intensity and just play better,” Paul said. “We’re one of those teams where our offense feeds off their defense. And we did that.”
The Clippers earned a 37-18 advantage in the third period, sparked by Barnes, who had six rebounds and made 12 of his first 13 shots of the night. They scored in transition and held Phoenix to just seven of their 16 offensive rebounds in the final two periods.
“They killed us in the first half [on the glass],” Rivers said. “We gave up 32 points in the first half off our turnovers and off of offensive rebounds. In the second half, we didn’t turn it over and we took away the offensive rebounds and it allowed our defense to get set.”
In the two days leading up to the Clippers’ second matchup with the Suns of the season, much was made of the way Phoenix dismantled the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“They killed us,” Griffin said of the Clippers’ 107-88 loss on Dec. 30. “They dominated almost every aspect. They got all the 50-50 balls, got offensive rebounds, ran on us, hit threes, everything.”
Fast forward to Tuesday night, the Clippers opened up a nine-point lead in the first quarter. But things went awry in the final minutes of the period. Phoenix scored 11 of the final 13 points of the first, taking a 25-24 lead. Paul turned the ball over on three of the final four Clippers’ possessions, leading to five Suns points. The Clippers committed 10 of their 15 turnovers in the first half and Griffin and Paul combined to shoot 5-of-16 from the field. Phoenix outscored the Clippers by 10 in the second quarter, including again closing the quarter on a sizeable run, 11-4.
Phoenix’s lead evaporated quickly in the third and was erased completely Collison drained an elbow jumper to make it 68-66.
Griffin, Paul, Reggie Bullock and Willie Green wore bright green/yellow Mardi Gras-themed shoes… Danny Granger made his debut with the Clippers, playing 3:46. He did not score… Leandro Barbosa fractured his left hand in the first half and did not return… The Clippers were without Jamal Crawford (calf) and J.J. Redick (back). They did not travel with the team to Phoenix… Griffin passed Dominique Wilkins setting the Los Angeles Clippers record of 20 games in a row with at least 20 points… The Clippers moved to 32-3 when scoring at least 104 points… Barnes has made 20 of his last 39 3-pointers… Phoenix was led by P.J. Tucker’s 18 points… The Clippers are 17-15 on the road…
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS HEAD COACH DOC RIVERS
(On Third Quarter)
“Matt in the third quarter but I thought the team defense. We let it up in the first half, the second quarter was horrendous. But then I thought our defense, to hold them to 39 points in the second half. Everybody was in the right spots, we were rotating, and we played with intensity. Great focus in the second half. Matt’s shots got us going in the second half, the offensive part but I thought overall it was the defense that one the game for us. It was just a good team win
They killed us in the first half. What did they have in the first half, like 32 points combined off of our turnovers and offensive rebounds? In the second half, we didn’t turn it over and we took away the offensive rebounds and it allowed our defense to get set.
I thought in the first half they were playing in a playoff game and we were not. I thought in the second half we joined and it became a really good game.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS FORWARD BLAKE GRIFFIN (22 POINTS, 5 REBOUNDS)
(On Third Quarter)
“Matt Barnes kept us in the game the way he was shooting the ball and we got stops and that’s when we really got back in the game. It was intense. I felt like we didn’t play our game in the first half. We let them get to here they wanted to get to and they just outplayed us and out hustled us the whole first half. Being up 10, down 10, keeping a good demeanor about you; I thought the whole team to fight through adversity was huge. I think that’s going to serve us well late in games, especially in the playoffs.
I felt like they were going to start going down when I was backing them down because that’s what they do a lot of times and I didn’t want to get an offensive foul. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get to the rim so I just read it.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS FORWARD MATT BARNES (28 POINTS, 6 REBOUNDS)
(On Third Quarter)
“I was just trying to come out and have a spark. I think they hit us in the mouth in the second quarter and built a quick double digit lead. We talked about at halftime that we needed to come out and hit them first and I think we did a good job of that.
I just wanted to be aggressive. I had a couple of open looks and they were closing out hard and it gave me some looks at the basket so I was just taken what they gave to me and I was able to knock them down.
We just had to finish off. We made our run in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth and they’re a good team and they made their run in the fourth but we got key stops. Blake and DJ had some big stops on the defensive end and ending the possession with rebounds and we made big free throws down the stretch.”
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By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten
For more than two months the Clippers have lived with the bad taste of one of their most lopsided losses of the season.
On Tuesday night in the Valley of the Sun, the Clippers (41-20) have an opportunity for a little payback against the upstart Phoenix Suns (35-24).
“I think we’ve got to leave that bad experience that they gave us in our first rodeo with them in our mouth when we play them,” Darren Collison said before the team departed for Phoenix.
Collison was one of a handful of players who said they were beaten in every facet by the Suns in their only meeting of the season on Dec. 30. Phoenix won, 107-88, at Staples Center, a place where the Clippers have lost just five times all season.
Another victory by the Suns, who enter the game with two wins in a row after three straight losses, would close the gap in the Pacific Division to four games. But the Clippers, seeking a season-high tying fifth straight win, are intent on avoiding that.
Chris Paul vs. Goran Dragic
THREE THINGS TO WATCH ON PRIME TICKET
- The Clippers and Suns are similar in a number of statistical categories. They are the top two teams in the NBA in 3-point defense, fast-break points, and are among the West’s best teams in intra-conference games. They are also the league’s highest scoring teams at home. The Suns average 108.4 points per game at U.S. Airways Center and have scored 116 and 129 points in their past two home games respectively.
- Darren Collison is averaging 13.5 points and 6.1 assists per game as a starter. He’s been asked to start at point guard for 19 games and Tuesday will likely be his second start as the shooting guard next Chris Paul. Since taking over for an injured Jamal Crawford in the second half against Houston, Collison has scored 32 points in one and a half games. It is plausible that Rivers may use Willie Green as the starting shooting guard on Tuesday to better matchup with 6-foot-8 guard Gerald Green.
- Blake Griffin is 35 rebounds away from reaching 3,000 for his career. Once Griffin, 24, has amassed 3,000 boards, he will become just the third player in NBA history to top 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists while also shooting 50.0% or better from the field before the end of his fourth season. Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley are the only other players to do so. Griffin will likely reach the milestone on Mar. 8 vs. the Hawks.
The Clippers are 16-15 on the road… Danny Granger is expected to make his Clippers debut… Jared Dudley will play his first game in Phoenix in the regular season since spending five-plus years in the desert as a member of the Suns… Dragic is the first Suns player to average 19 points and five assists since Stephon Marbury in 2003-04… Markieff Morris is second in the NBA in 20-point games off the bench (14)… The Clippers are 4-4 their last eight games against the Suns…
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Darren Collison: “I think everybody is kind of surprised by Phoenix’s success. But they have good players. They have a good coaching staff. Jeff Hornacek has done a great job. They’re playing free. They’re playing loose.”
Blake Griffin: “They killed us. They dominated almost every aspect. They got all the 50-50 balls, got offensive rebounds, ran on us, hit threes, everything.”
LAC: Jamal Crawford (calf) is day-to-day. J.J. Redick (back) is expected to miss his 11th game in a row.
PHX: Eric Bledsoe (knee), who has not played since Dec. 30, and Emeka Okafor (herniated disc) are out.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES HISTORY
All Time: 69-128 (Home: 47-53, Road: 22-75)
Road Streak: Lost 1
Largest Margin of Victory:
Dec. 30, 2013 at Staples Center: Suns 107, Clippers 88
LAST TIME OUT
Pts: Paul 21