Paul, Defense Lead Clippers To 120-100 Win In Phoenix

Rowan Kavner

PHOENIX – The Clippers got a taste of how fast the Suns can play in transition in the second quarter. They weren’t going to let that happen again.

After allowing 41 points in the second, the Clippers (30-14) buckled down in the second half, surrendering just 43 points to the Suns (26-20) the rest of the game while pouring on the offense to capture their fourth straight win in a 120-100 victory.

“Our defense was terrific,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We had that one stretch I thought end of the first, beginning of the second where they got out running. That’s how they got that lead, they got their confidence back. Then I thought in the third quarter we came out and established our defense again and again. The last seven minutes of the fourth was phenomenal.”

The Clippers know how quickly the Suns can get back into a game.

A seven-point lead after one quarter turned into a two-point deficit as the Suns got bucket after bucket in the second quarter.

“We needed halftime to turn them off,” Rivers said. “Then we could reestablish our defense again.”

That’s exactly what the Clippers did, holding a Suns team that’s scored 100 points in all but one game this month to fewer than 25 points in three of the four quarters, with the breakout second the only exception. The Clippers committed just five turnovers in the second half and recaptured the lead in the third, turning a deficit into a 12-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Offense has never been much of a problem for a Clippers team that’s got the best offensive rating in the league, and Jamal Crawford said the Clippers will be in good shape if the defense can reach a similar level.

But the Suns weren’t done.

“Phoenix doesn’t go away,” Rivers said. “There’s no lead safe.”

Phoenix went back on another run to bring the Clippers’ lead down to two points at 96-94 early in the fourth. Early in the season, the Clippers may not have been able to do what they did Sunday, answering with a 15-0 run.

Rivers said he honestly didn’t feel safe with the substantial lead with three minutes left, but it turned out to be enough. The run was sparked by Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

“They’re one of those teams that’s never out of a game,” Paul said. “No matter what kind of lead you get, they play so fast and they play downhill and they’ve got all those fast guards and a lot of shooters. It was good to put them away.”

Blake Griffin added 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. DeAndre Jordan finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, coming up with clutch free throws as the Suns went to the “hack-a-DJ” strategy late in the fourth.

There may not be many games the Clippers can survive allowing 41 points in one quarter to another opponent.

“But tonight we did,” Paul said. “Luckily we were scoring. Our offense is pretty good; really good. When we get stops like we did, we’re tough to beat.”

NOTES: The Clippers have won each of their first three games against the Suns this season …The Clippers have won a series-leading six straight games overall against the Suns … The Clippers held a Suns team that’s third in the league in points off turnovers to just 14 … The Clippers are now 8-4 against the top eight teams in the West … The four straight wins for the Clippers mark their second longest winning streak of the year after winning nine straight earlier this season … The Clippers outrebounded the Suns by 19…