LOS ANGELES – Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro stated prior to Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Suns that his team had not earned the right to overlook an opponent with a sub .500 record, especially at home.

Through three quarters, it appeared the Clippers would not answer the challenge. Then the fourth quarter happened.

The Clippers outscored the Suns by 16 points in the fourth and ran away with their fifth win in row, a 117-99 matinee victory in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.

“Thank the bench because our starters are struggling,” Del Negro said. “They got us off to a bad start again. I was disappointed with that. I didn’t think our energy defensively was very good. But Lamar [Odom], Eric [Bledsoe], Matt [Barnes] and obviously Jamal [Crawford] got going for us. He was aggressive, made some shots. Overall, our bench won the game for us.”

The final period began with the Clippers (13-6) nursing an 85-83 lead over the Suns (7-14). But the Clippers second unit put together a 17-4 scoring run to balloon the lead to 15 and they never looked back. Crawford was a spark during that run, going 4-for-5 in the first five minutes of the period including a 3-pointer. He also hit two free throws. The Clippers ended up doubling up the Suns 32-16 in the fourth.

The defense also ramped up in the last period as the Clippers held the Suns to 7-for-20 shooting in the period after the visitors had shot 50% through the first three quarters.

“It started on defense,” forward Blake Griffin said. “They (the bench) got five stops in a row or whatever it was and got it to an 11-point lead or whatever it was and maintained it from there.”

Difference Maker: Griffin. The 6-foot-10 power forward was outstanding. Griffin scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 28 minutes and shot an efficient 10-of-17 from the field. He also dished out four assists and had a career-high four steals, all in the first half. The Suns elected to use single coverage on Griffin in the post during the game and he took full advantage.

“I got the ball deep and it helps when you catch it low like that,” Griffin said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me in transition and getting me some easy buckets but I’ve got to do a better job at the free throw line.”

Moment of Truth: Midway through the second quarter with the score tied at 49, Griffin fell to the floor near the right elbow in transition. The ball was knocked free and bounced a few feet to Griffin’s right. He quickly got himself into a squatted position and launched himself toward the loose ball, snatching it ferociously with his left hand. Then, from a seated position, Griffin found Chris Paul for a wide open 3-pointer near the top of the arc.

“It was crazy,” Paul said of the play. “We do that a lot. If we get a rebound and Blake’s up running. He was posted in the lane and I threw it and I think somebody tripped him. It was about to be a turnover but somehow, some way he saved the day.”

Stat Line of the Day: Paul. Along with being on the receiving end of Griffin’s fabulous assist, the Clippers floor general posted his eighth double-double of the season. He scored 16 points and dished out 11 assists to go along with two steals in 30 minutes. He was 5-of-10 from the field, hit two 3-pointers and was aggressive from the outset.

“Aggression doesn’t always mean points,” Paul said. “I think attacking off the ball-screen early we got a lot of; you know Blake got two or three dunks in the first three minutes. I was just coming off aggressive and looking. I can make you think I’m going to score all day long but then you’ve got to help or I’m going to shoot a lay up. And then when you do [help], Blake’s going to dunk on you.”

More Stats: 

Barnes. He scored six of his 13 points in the first half on 3-of-5 shooting, including a corner 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter to give the Clippers a 63-57 lead. He finished the game going 6-of-11 and also grabbed eight rebounds, tied for the team high with Odom and Griffin.

Odom. The former Sixth Man of the Year had one of his better games of the season, powered by a second quarter where he scored six of his eight points and grabbed five of his eight rebounds to help the Clippers turn an eight-point deficit in the quarter into a halftime lead.

Michael Beasley. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry elected to bring Beasley off the bench against the Clippers and he responded. Beasley led the Suns with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including a 4-for-7 performance from beyond the arc in 30 minutes. He also dished out five assists.

Hot: Crawford’s Fourth Quarter. The Clippers leading scorer coming into the game had a great fourth quarter. He went 5-for-8 from the field with all three of his misses coming from beyond the arc. He finished with 21 points, which was all the more impressive after hit made just two of his eight shot attempts in 16 first-half minutes. It was the tenth time this season Crawford has scored 20 or more points. The Clippers are 8-2 in those games.

Not: Clippers Free Throw Shooting. The team had its worst performance at the charity stripe since their Nov. 26 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. The Clippers went just 14-for-24 (58.3%) from the line. Griffin was just 4-of-10 while Jordan and Turiaf both missed a two apiece.


On getting out in transition:

Turiaf: “We have to go out there hungry. We just have to go out there and try to execute to perfection.”

On today’s loss to the Clippers:

Head Coach Alvin Gentry: “The game was lost with 64 points in the paint and 20 turnovers for 30 points. That was happening before the fourth quarter. They made a run in the fourth quarter where they started out 15-2 and that didn’t help us either. We have to take better care of the ball and we have to be able to execute. I told the guys I appreciate the effort and intensity that they played with, but we have to be able to execute. But a lot of the credit goes to the Clippers; they have a hell of a basketball team.”

On the struggles of the starters against the Suns:

Del Negro: “The starters know it’s about defense. It’s about getting out there and understanding and taking away easy ones. Our rotations were slow. We gave them lay ups. I think we gave them 11 points in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game. We have to be sharper there and more consistent.”

Notes: Chauncey Billups (left foot peroneal tendonitis) missed his second straight game… Willie Green scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting in 16 minutes. He has started 16 of the Clippers’ 19 games this season… The Clippers have a 9-3 record at home this season. They have also won their two afternoon games at Staples Center, defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 89-76, on Nov. 11… The Clippers out rebounded the Suns, 41-37, including a 17-9 edge on the offensive glass.