Five Takeaways: Clippers Get Two Hard-Fought Victories On Final Back-To-Back Set Of The Season
Make it two victories in a row for the L.A. Clippers, who defeated the Phoenix Suns 124-118 on Thursday night. In what was their final back-to-back set of the NBA season, L.A. played another hard-fought game and won despite playing a Suns team that had the day off yesterday.
“I thought they played with a lot of energy,” said head coach Doc Rivers after the game. “They played like a team that didn’t play the night before. We didn’t necessarily play great, but we won the game and we’ll take that. I felt that going into this game, it was just going to be a hard game. We played hard and a lot of minutes last night and coming in here, you kind of felt that it was going to be a tough game.”
The game saw a lot of back-and-forth action in the first half as neither team could create much separation from the other. Trailing the Suns 51-47 midway through the second quarter, the Clippers closed out the first half on a 20-9 run to take an eight point lead into the half. Blake Griffin scored 20 points in the first half on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting.
L.A. continued to work the Suns in the third quarter, increasing their lead to as many as 12 points at 89-77. As has been the case, however, the Clippers’ lead dwindled all the way down to one before the quarter was over. Two of Devin Booker’s game-high 33 points early in the fourth quarter tied the game up at 102 apiece, but Griffin, Chris Paul, and Jamal Crawford did what they do best and scored 26 of the Clippers’ 31 points in the final period to guide the team to their second-straight victory.
Griffin finished the night with 31 points on an ultra-efficient 12-of-19 shooting from the field while Paul added 29 points and 10 assists on 10-of-17 shooting. L.A. needed an aggressive Jamal Crawford tonight with Austin Rivers sitting out with a hamstring strain, and he delivered a dazzling 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting in another spectacular performance off the bench.
Quote of the Night
Head coach Doc Rivers was impressed with Griffin’s play the whole night, but especially down the stretch when the Clippers needed him most.
“Blake had an efficient game,” said Rivers. “Chris [Paul] was more dominant, in some ways, but it was a beautiful game by Blake. You never say an easy 31 [points], but tonight it felt like that. He was really efficient. I loved his elbow jump-shot down the stretch. I think that’s going be his shot, it has to be his shot at the end of games and I love that he had the confidence to just take them.”
Second Sweep In Series History
The Phoenix Suns and L.A. Clippers have been battling since the year 1970, but this season marked just the second time in 47 years that the Clippers swept the season series against the Suns. The only other time it was done was two years ago in the 2014-15 season. L.A. scored 118.3 points per game in the four-game sweep while allowing 107 points to the Suns.
Win Despite Paint Beatdown
The Clippers were able to come out of Phoenix with a six point victory, but got surprisingly pounded in the paint, getting outscored a whopping 66-22. The 66 points is worrisome, but this Suns team has a surplus of athleticism and the Clippers are on the second-night of a back-to-back following a hard-fought win against the Wizards.
“That’s what they do,” said Rivers on the disparity in paint scoring. “Other than Booker, they’re not a great three-point shooting team. I think they’re second or third in the league in points in the paint, and that’s how they play.”
The Suns are the worst team in the NBA when it comes to defending the three-point line. They allow opposing teams to shoot 38.1% from downtown, and it showed tonight as the Clippers buried 12 three-pointers on just 22 attempts. It was L.A.’s third best shooting percentage night from beyond the arc this season at 54.5%.
Keeping The Foot On The Pedal
For the third game in a row, the Clippers held a double digit lead in the second half, and for the third game in a row, it was cut down to as close as a two-possession game. The Clippers took an 12 point lead midway through the third quarter, but were unable to increase the lead as Phoenix fought back to tie the game up at 102 apiece with less than eight minutes left in the game.
Veteran experience took control in the final period, however, as Chris Paul (10 points), Blake Griffin (nine points), and Jamal Crawford (seven points) led the Clippers to their second win in as many nights.
Hunt For Home-Court Very Much Alive
The Clippers’ heartbreaking loss to the Sacramento Kings this past Sunday afternoon made home-court advantage feel like an afterthought, but fast forward a couple days later L.A. is right back in position to grab home court advantage from the Utah Jazz.
The Clippers play just two games, both at home, over the next eight days against the Los Angeles Lakers (21-54) and Dallas Mavericks (31-43). Meanwhile, the Jazz take on the Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs, and Portland Trail Blazers over their next five days.
Home-court advantage isn’t guaranteed, but the schedule is on the Clippers’ side. After winning the season-series 3-1, they just have to take care of business to close out the final two weeks of the NBA season.
The L.A. Clippers take the short flight back from Phoenix to Los Angeles where they’ll be for the next week. They take on the Los Angeles Lakers in a Saturday afternoon home game. The Lakers (21-54) have lost 17 of their last 19 games and two of three matchups to the Clippers this season.