The Phoenix Suns lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 126-101, handing the Clips their first 50-win season in the franchise’s history. Now that this L.A. team has finally reached the plateau since relocating from San Diego to Hollywood in 1984, the only teams to not have a 50-win season are the Toronto Raptors and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Los Angeles leapt out to a 15-0 lead to start the game, but then the Suns ripped off ten points unanswered to keep the game close through halftime, when the score was 57-50. The third quarter was where Phoenix succumbed to the inevitable as the talent of Clippers, as well as their deep bench, overwhelmed the Suns, causing them to lose their seventh game in a row for a 23-52 overall record. The Clippers outscored the men in purple by 18 points in the quarter to put the game away for good.
Just after the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter tempers flared as Clippers center Ryan Hollins overplayed the inbounds to Dragic, ending up with Hollins’ arm around Dragic’s neck. As they were tangled up, the players got to the Suns bench where other players started to intervene. The most obvious was Beasley, who after pushing Hollins off of Dragic starting “barking” at Hollins and had to be held back for a second. Hollins was ejected after review for a flagrant-2 foul and Beasley was also ejected for his part in the altercation.
Hollins heard applause and received high-fives from the crowd at STAPLES Center as he left the arena. There was also a glimpse of leadership from Lamar Odom in an otherwise down year as he chided Hollins immediately following the play, yelling at him. During the review of the play to ascertain the facts so that punishments could be doled out, Beasley high-fived Dragic, as if to say, “I’ve got your back”.
For the winning team, pretty much everybody scored at a good clip. Six players scored at least 13 points, including all the starters except for Blake Griffin, who continued his sub-par stretch of play that has been attributed to a swollen calf muscle that has hampered his performance. Griffin did finish with nine points, five rebounds, seven assists and a steal, however.
DeAndre Jordan led the way for Los Angeles in scoring with his 20 points, while adding 12 rebounds and copious amounts of dunking and alley-oops for the home crowd’s entertainment. Eric Bledsoe followed next on the scoring card with 17 points and adding seven assists, a couple steals and a block off the bench.
Chris Paul, Caron Butler, and Willie Green all scored 15 points, while Paul was his spectacular self, by adding 12 assists and four steals. Jamal Crawford rounded out the double-digit scorers for L.A. with 13 points off the bench. The Clippers starters were so dominant that all of them had a plus/minus of more than 23.
For the Suns, it was sort of the same story, just less points and the loss. Phoenix scored 101 points, so somebody had to get the numbers. Wesley Johnson had 20 points on 7-15 shooting in his 41 minutes on the court. Jermaine O’Neal had 18 points and eight boards off the bench as he was manhandling the Clipper frontcourt. Jared Dudley scored 15 points and added a couple steals. Michael Beasley was efficient in his 17 minutes, scoring 13 points on 5-8 shooting before he got ejected. Goran Dragic had an off-game, contributing only 12 points, but Luis Scola posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards in the loss.
The Suns were bound to lose this game if Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan or the reserves came alive. Three of those four happened, so Phoenix didn’t really stand a chance. They gave up far too many dunks and alley-oops, allowing lob city to thrive in Hollywood.
The Suns also turned the ball over far too much, to the tune of 21, which was turned into 34 Clipper points. On the other hand, L.A. only turned the rock over six times for a measly eight points. Phoenix also gave up 72 (!) points in the paint, which is unacceptable.
There was a bright spot for the Suns that was interesting, though ultimately irrelevant. They, as a team, only missed one free throw (24-25) for 96 percent from the charity stripe. This game will go down in a three-way tie for the seventh-best free throw shooting performances in franchise history with at least 25 attempts.
Even though the Suns are in free-fall with seven consecutive losses, The Cleveland Cavaliers are tanking better, losing ten straight and have a half a game on Phoenix in the upside-down standings for the third-position in this years draft. Utah lost to Denver, which slid them half a game below the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs, which if they can’t make the postseason, gives the Suns an extra draft pick.
The Clippers get to rest a while before they take the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in a STAPLES Center rivalry game, while the Suns have a day off before they host the Golden State Warriors Friday.