Clippers Sail Past Suns for Phoenix’s 10th Straight Loss

Mar 30, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes for a loose ball against Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Clippers defeated the Suns 124-118. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes for a loose ball against Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Clippers defeated the Suns 124-118. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

A tankers delight: The Suns lost again, but played an exciting and competitive game that included several individual season and career-highs.

Even so, had the Suns made a few extra free throws (they shot 13-24 from the line for 54.2%), and had Devin Booker not fouled out (he had three fouls in the fourth quarter alone and reached the six foul limit with 4:45 remaining by biting on a J.J. Redick jump shot from the free throw circle) the Suns actually may have pulled this game out. The recently hapless Suns too were not in this one because the Clippers appeared to have overlooked Phoenix or that they had an off night. Phoenix truly played a solid game and came only a few late miscues away from preventing their season-long losing streak from reaching 10.

Their current 10-game losing streak is the longest since the Suns lost 13 games from January 26 – February 25 last season, tying their franchise record longest-streak. Phoenix next faces the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, then Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Oklahoma City Thunder, all at home.

Opposite of what had been their recent trend, the Suns actually started tonight’s matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers well, leading by five early, and by as many as six in the second quarter. Devin Booker began the game particularly strong scoring 11 points on 5-8 shooting and dishing out 5 assists, several to Marquese Chriss (as you will see below) who himself finished with 12 points in the quarter.

The teams battled back and forth until a wide open Blake Griffin three-pointer from the corner regaining a Los Angeles lead that the Suns were unable to ever wrestle away. Phoenix, led by Devin Booker’s 19 points, shot a sold 51.1% from the field in the first half, even while shooting 4-15 from beyond the arc, still found themselves down by eight at half.

The third quarter saw the Clippers starters maintaining solid pressure on Phoenix early, although the young Suns would make headway with the Clippers starters on the bench.

Taking a 15-6 run over the final 4:20 of the quarter, the Suns would eventually tie it up at 97, then again at 102 with 7:51 left in the fourth following a Devin Booker fastbreak layup. Those points would prove to be Booker’s last of the game as he would commit his fifth personal foul 40 seconds later leading to his immediate substitution with T.J. Warren. Then after an official timeout with 5:02 remaining in the period, Booker would return to the court, though he would commit the aforementioned sixth foul on a Redick jump shot only 17 seconds later.

Tyler Ulis would take over the offense from there scoring or assisting on the team’s final 12 points, but it wasn’t enough as four missed free throws by Warren and two Marquese Chriss turnovers down the stretch provided the veteran, playoff-bound Clippers, with enough space to pull off the victory.

Devin Booker’s 33 points was a game-high, and came on an impressive 13-22 from the field, including 4-7 from beyond the arc. His 57.1% three-point shooting on the night was the best since he had the same shooting line against the Washington Wizards on March 7. Ironically, this was the fourth time this season that he has shot 4-7 from outside. Booker also finished with 9 assists, tying his season-high set versus Charlotte on March 2. His career-high 11 was reached last season against Golden State.

Booker is now averaging 42.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in his last three games.

By finishing with 33 points, Booker snuck into the top-5 all-time scorers before 21, passing Dwight Howard’s 2,619 points. After tonight, Booker now has 2,637, which is only 118 points behind Kobe Bryant – who came straight out of high school – for fourth all-time. Presuming he plays in each of the final six games, Booker would need to only average 19.7 points to surpass Kobe. Carmelo Anthony is 3rd on that list with 3,283 points. Devin would need to average 107.6 points to finish up the season to pass Carmelo, an unlikely scenario. (Just for fun, Booker would also need to average 143.2 points to pass Kevin Durant over these last six games, and 336 points to pass LeBron James).

His 21st birthday will happen on October 30, so there is a possibility that he will have one, maybe two games in late October to start next season before he crosses that threshold. The Suns did play two games before October 30 this year, and one game in each of the prior two seasons.

Tyler Ulis led all players in assists with 13, and coupled that with 16 points on 8-15 shooting. His shooting, which has been poor since he was given the starting role on March 15, was the best he has had when taking at least 10 shot attempts since finishing 8-12 against Boston in the memorable game on March 5. His double-double was the fifth of the season (and his career), all coming in this stretch as the starting point guard. (Eric Bledsoe had six point/assist double-doubles all season, although one of those was a triple-double, and he had an additional point/rebound double-double as well).

Marquese Chriss finished with 20 points on 9-13 from the field (including some incredible highlight reel slam dunks) and 2-5 from three and 6 boards. T.J. Warren recorded his fourth career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. His 2-6 from the free throw line was partly to blame or the loss, however. Warren is averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last three games and has recorded double-digit scoring in each of his last 18 games. Derrick Jones Jr. reached 10 points, marking his second consecutive game with double-digit scoring, his 13 points against Atlanta his career-high.

The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin’s 31 points and 7 rebounds, Chris Paul’s 29 points and 10 assists, and DeAndre Jordan’s 7 points and 17 assists. Redick scored 14 points, and the ageless Jamal Crawford scored 19 points off the bench. The Clippers shot 12-22 from three as a team which paled over Phoenix’s 7-23. Unlike the Suns who finished 13-24 from the free throw line, the Clippers shot 24-34, however, they would have been 23-30 had DeAndre Jordan never have been forced to the line twice.