Phoenix Suns 91, Los Angeles Clippers 87 — Upset city


The Suns had reason to celebrate after upsetting the Clippers. Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Suns had reason to celebrate after upsetting the Clippers. Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

On the first day of the NCAA Tournament, the Phoenix Suns pulled off Thursday’s biggest upset.

Missing Steve Nash and Grant Hill as they rested during this middle game of a three games in a row stretch, the Suns battled back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Clippers, 91-87.

The Suns played a gritty second half to slowly chip away at the Clippers’ lead before out executing them down the stretch with Shannon Brown playing the role of go-to guy.

It is surely debatable whether this is the Suns’ biggest win of the season, but it is without question the team’s most surprising victory featuring yet again another major comeback in a game in which Phoenix’s largest lead was the final margin.

The last time the Suns decided to sit Nash and Hill in this situation they were thrashed by the Denver Nuggets to highlight a pitiful stretch of three losses in three games. The Suns fought hard for some time in that one as well but just didn’t have the firepower to finish off the Nuggets; tonight was a different story although it kind of felt like the Suns were a double-digit seed trying to shock a more talented foe.

With the Detroit Pistons coming to town Friday night, the Suns can actually get back to .500 for the first time since they were 4–4 if they can close out this three games in a row stretch with three consecutive victories.

On a first day of the NCAA Tournament that featured few major upsets, the Suns played like the prototypical underdog, slowly chipping away at the lead and then making some big plays down the stretch to finish it off.  The Suns even celebrated like a college team, with players pumping their fists and raising their arms in the air before a wild celebration (for NBA regular season standards at least) was set off on the Staples Center floor.

“It was a great win for us because obviously we didn’t have our two best players on the floor, and we didn’t have the guy who is the engine to our whole team,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It was satisfying for the guys in the locker room because I think they wanted to prove that we are a good team all around, and that we can win games without Steve or Grant.”

Although I would not bet on the team the Suns put on the floor tonight on most evenings, it must be a big lift to their confidence to beat a good team on the road without their two captains.

Through three quarters the Clippers were shooting better than 50 percent while the Suns were down below 39 percent and Los Angeles was leading the battle of the boards by 10, making it a surprise the Suns trailed by just 11.

But the fourth quarter was a different story as the Suns outscored the Clippers 27–12, drilling half their shots while holding the Clippers to 21.4 percent shooting and winning the rebounding battle as well.

Nobody on the Clippers scored more than three points in the decisive period whereas Brown led the Suns with 10 points and three more guys scored at least eight.

I’m not sure this strategy would work on most nights, but the Suns let Brown go to work in crunch time and no Clipper answered. The former Laker took four shots and four free throws in the final four minutes, canning the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:25 on the clock as well as go-ahead free throws with 1:33 remaining after the Clippers scored their final points.

With less than four minutes to go, Gentry decided to go with the unorthodox strategy of playing Hack–a–Blake and Hack–A–Jordan.  The Clippers’ big men ended up drilling four of their six foul shots, but the strategy seemed to work since those were the only points Los Angeles scored in the final four minutes of the game as it seemed to take them out of the rhythm of their offense.

Brown paced the Suns with 21, but it was wholly a team effort as eight other players scored between six and 12 points.  That includes Robin Lopez — who was a team-high +18 and relegated Gortat to the bench in the fourth quarter — as well as Markieff Morris, who went for 10 and six along with a +12.

Don’t look now, but the Suns are suddenly within sight of the playoffs after running off this streak of nine wins in 12 games, as they finished the night tied for 10th with Utah just two games out of the loss column of the playoffs.

Perhaps most impressive is the fight the team has shown throughout the run in which they’ve made a comeback from double digits in nearly every game, each one bigger than the last. They had every excuse to give up in this one down by 17 without their leaders against a very good team on the road yet they still fought back to score another comeback.

It’s too early to tell if Phoenix will be the Cinderella of the NBA playoffs, but these past few weeks the Suns have extended March Madness beyond the college game.

And 1

  • When the Blazers waived Greg Oden today my first thought was why don’t the Suns take a flyer on him and give their vaunted medical staff their stiffest test yet. There’s a reason the guy was drafted ahead of Kevin Durant (although it may not necessarily be a good reason), and if he ever gets healthy he still possesses the talent to make a difference. It seems like a win-win for Oden to sign with the Suns for the rest of the season and see if the medical staff can get him right before he becomes a free agent next season (in which case the Suns would probably have first dibs).
  • So long as we’re on the topic of the Blazers, you guys know I have long been partial to Nicolas Batum as a free agent target. However, after the moves the Blazers made today it seems safe to think they will never let that restricted free agent leave their grasp (although that was likely always the case).
  • Sebastian Telfair played a solid game in place of Nash, delivering seven points and eight assists to just one turnover in 34 minutes of play. He showed no fear defending Chris Paul and came up with the defensive play of the game when he stripped CP3 on a drive with 34 seconds remaining and the Suns nursing a two-point lead.
  • As the Suns’ broadcast pointed out, Phoenix is now 18–2 when allowing 95 points or less and just 3–20 when allowing more. Talk about a magic number.
  • Morris gave Blake Griffin a taste of his own medicine by throwing down a vicious dunk on the dunk champion himself:
    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBLbgtH3jMM]

Tags: Grant Hill Shannon Brown Steve Nash

  • Scott

    While I kind of like the idea of getting another big … after so many years of lacking size on the Suns … the medical staff isn’t going to be able to do anything with Oden because his problem is congenital. One leg is substantially longer than the other, so his low back, hips and knees will suffer under the strain of intense athletic activity.

    This was known by Portland before he was drafted, IIRC. If it was the Suns evaluating him, they’d have taken Durant. :)

    BTW, draft watchers … the Nets gave up their 1st round draft pick in the trade with Portland. It’s protected for the top 3, as those were the only players they were interested in (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Thomas Robinson). They said the rest of the draft falls off a bit after that, and I can see what they mean. I felt the same way looking at the draft, but we’ll get more information on players closer to the draft.

  • Jz

    Really, I did not know that about Oden. He doesn’t seem to be slouching in the few fully body pics i’ve seen him in. Suns should still give him a shot if the F.O decides to part with RoLo. I say 3 years at 2.5 mill with team options is more than fair.

    BTW. Who here thinks Sarver should re-hire D’Antoni? Anyone?

  • PennyAnd1

    @Jz

    I think Alvin Gentry has done a great job continuing the mindset of D’Antoni..D’Antoni can wait.

    Great win for the 2 Unit. It’s certainly is a moral booster.

    Gortat just can’t play without Nash…although his defense was still there.

  • Serek

    I think Gortat got used to playing with Nash a little too much. He forgot that dishes don’t come easy.
    Great and unexpected win by the way… And Shannon Brown, of all men :)

  • fan in chi-town

    what a win, that was awesome. 9-3 since the all star break, hope it isnt tii little too late. also we never ever do well on a miami-orlando back to back. heres to hoping next week will be different…

  • KeZ

    Shannon Brown has now won 2 games for our ballclub.

    Iv´e said it a long time…Start Brown, Dudley and let Hill come of the bench with the second unit.

    man, Bassy! That kid got heart…..

  • shazam

    fave game of the season
    :) :) :) :) :)

  • steve

    This was a fantastic win. Imagine if the Suns hadn’t decided to take the night off against Minny!

    Shannon Brown came through big, but I hardly think that’s reason to justify starting him. Even if he was better than Dudley, I still don’t think that’s reason. You don’t always want your five best guys in the starting rotation. The sixth and seventh men are just as important as any of the starting five. I see no reason to believe Brown would be more effective as a starter (or that the team would benefit from having him with the starters over Dudley).

    This has been a great home streth, but the road games are coming. I’m expecting the team to fall apart, but this little run sure has been worth it.

  • KeZ

    Steve:

    I said start Brown and Dudley……

  • steve

    Indeed you did. My bad. I must be mixing up conversations in my head because I know I’ve heard others calling for a Brown-Dudley swap.

    I like the idea of playing Hill with the second unit except for one thing. Hill is typically the defensive trend-setter for the first unit. I shudder to think what would become of the Suns’ already mediocre defense if Hill wasn’t on the court at the tip to set the tone.

    However, I think Hill’s intellegence offensively might balance the second unit better, and the benefit that would provide might outweigh the potential defensive lapse of the starters… so many possibilities, but I would at least like to see it in action.

    I don’t think it’s likely though. I don’t think Gentry would want to “insult” Hill by “demoting” him. We’ll just have to dream.

  • phx suns fan in la

    i was at the game behind mr orng and the suns bench and every timeout dudley was the only one motivating other players . it was an exciting 4th quarter

  • KeZ

    Steve:

    No problems mate :)

    Btw, now that Oden is a free agent I personally think that our front office should consider to take a chance on him!? It doesn´t hurt to have another big body(and thats a big ass body). With some magical treatment from our training staff………who knows!

  • Scott

    I don’t think the Suns should re-hire D’Antoni. No doubt he’s been humbled a bit, but I think he’s possibly going to be picked up by Portland.

    Portland has had massive Nash-envy the last few years. Since they can’t get Nash, they may try to get D’Antoni.

  • Mel.

    ^That actually makes sense, given the total jackknife that PDX appears to be making; Felton was a big Mike D. supporter even after being bounced from the Knicks, and playing in the glorious sloppiness of D’Antoni’s SSOL 2.37 system would turn him into twice the player that he was under Nate Mac.

    Though ironically, I think that Nate’s gut-check brand of ball would do wonders for the Knicks, in terms of dealing with their major defensive issues. Maybe a straight coastal do-see-do between those two crap-canned coaches is in the mail?

  • http://twitter.com/auggie5000 Auggie5000

    I think Oden is worth a shot if he can be had at a reasonable price. If he can ever get healthy, it would probably be on the Suns.

    Great win btw. Glad the Suns found their heart recently.