Division rivalry games can be very helpful in terms of playoff aspiration. The Suns hosted the division rival LA Clippers on Friday, but couldn’t manage a win, falling 104-96.
The Suns came out of the gate very slowly, starting out shooting 2-12. They got back into it, and the game went back and forth. The Suns led by as many as 12 in the third quarter, and trailed by 15 in the fourth. An 11-0 run cut it to for, but then the Suns collapsed, with a 101-94 lead and 40 seconds left being insurmountable.
The Suns had major issues defensively. They blocked zero shots, and they seemed unable to focus on all five players on the floor. Matt Barnes had 28 for the Clippers, including 16 in the third. However, star guard Chris Paul had 14 points on 4-14 shooting.
It is a rare occasion when the Suns bench outscores the other bench but the Suns lose. The Clippers bench scored 12 points, compared to the Suns 37 bench points. Normally, the life the Suns bench provides carries the Suns over the hump, but that wasn’t the case tonight.
P.J. Tucker took the lead with 18 points on 8-11 shooting and 10 rebounds. Goran Dragic and CP3 dueled from the point guard spot to a stalemate, finishing with 14 points and nine assists each. Gerald Green added 17 points, but shot 6-19. Alex Len, starting in place of Miles Plumlee, who sat with a knee injury, put up six points and six boards.
Len was backed up by Shavlik Randolph, the newest member of the Suns squad. He finished with nine points and three rebounds, and played in crunch time in the final quarter.
The Suns sit at 35-25 after this loss. They are moved back down to the eighth seed in the West. and will be tested on Thursday when they host Kevin Durant and the Thunder.