The Suns rang in the New Year the only way they knew how, by putting on a full on beat down on the Clippers 107-88 in Los Angeles.
The victory brought Phoenix to a 19-11 record, good for the eighth-best record in the entire NBA. The 19 wins is about the amount all the experts predicted this squad to finish with by the time May rolled around. I predicted them for near 21 wins, but said I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished nearer 26 or 27. But this was unexpected.
They are only a half a game behind the Clippers for the Pacific Division, and are behind the Rockets by the same margin in the West standings. If the Suns win the division, they would automatically get a top-four seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Phoenix had control of this game right from the start. They started the “bout” with a swift uppercut in the form of a 9-0 run in only 90 seconds. With about three and a half minutes left in the quarter, the Clippers brought the deficit to only two, but that was the closest they’d be the rest of the night.
The Suns held a six-point lead going into the second, but they pushed the lead to 21 by halftime. It was already a blowout, but then it really got out of hand.
Phoenix’s defense was pestering Blake Griffin and Chris Paul all night, getting them frustrated. Also, the Suns’ continued to pump in shot after shot like hunters in the woods during deer season. Both of these factors resulted in the Suns gigantic 29-point lead.
The final score showed only a 19-point victory, but it was much more than that as the entire fourth quarter was devoted to what is known as junk time. Those players that ride the bench in most games got to play against each other and hone their skills while the stars watched the victory from the sidelines. The lead shrunk due to LA rolling out better bench players in the final 12 minutes.
Goran Dragic had a fantastic game with 26 points on 10-15 shooting in 32 minutes with an amazing +27 plus minus. He gave the Suns a spark with five steals, while adding eight assists in the victory.
Gerald Green was superb off the bench with 21 points on a pretty efficient night from the floor. He shot 50 percent (5-10) from deep and finished 8-14 overall. Even on the nights when he isn’t on fire or efficient, Green is never boring. He takes crazy (as in only Ray Allen and Kyle Korver should be taking these shots) shots from behind the three-point line. He also added an electrifying dunk from the baseline, where he jumped from behind the backboard for a vicious two-handed jam.
Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker added 12 points as starters while Markieff Morris finished with 11 points and a +18 plus/minus from the bench in the victory.
For the Clippers, no one could really break out scoring, due to the 20 turnovers the team committed. However, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford finished with 15 points, Matt Barnes had 13 off the bench, and Chris Paul and Darren Collision finished with 11 in the defeat.
This was the perfect way for the Suns to finish off 2013 which has been one of the most dynamic years in franchise history. From one of the worst squads and turmoil to a young, athletic group that is currently the eighth-best team in the league. Phoenix also is still hopeful for an even better 2014.
They could be a top-four team in the west very soon, as they have eight straight games against teams currently underneath the .500 mark. This stretch of games starts against the Memphis Grizzlies on January second.