The Suns were up by 23 with 5 or 6 minutes left in the game and still playing their starters. Only after they lost the lead with a 13-0 run by the Clips and then regained enough points to stave off a loss, Lou Amundson et al. got into the game with 30 seconds left. Really, though, it looked like the starters wanted out and were just playing not to get injured. I figured (like they did) that after the t-shirt toss timeout with 6 minutes left, they wouldn't be in there. The Suns packed it in 6 minutes early when the reserves really should've received some PT.
More on the t-shirt toss later.
It looks like the kooks in the Bell Tower have adopted Grant Hill. The banner I saw said, "The Belltower Now Rings for 33" (I think it was 33; that's what it looked like from my angle) and they brought those annoying cow bells back into action when Hill checked in. Let's see how long he takes to start waving to his fan club.
As I mentioned in the pregame, I dusted off my Shaq jersey and was pretty sure I jinxed him. He missed his first 6 or 7 shots -- most of them the short, front-rimmed variety. I was thinking he had too much fun at Axis on NYE, and I was blaming myself for jinxing everything. However -- get this -- he found his rhythm at the free throw line and finished the game 6 for 13 from the filed and 5 for 8 from the line for a line of 17 and 9.
Amare chipped in for 23 and 8 on 10 of 17 shooting. Hill was 5 of 7. RichardSun shot 6 of 9. See a trend? The Suns shot 55% and 58% from 3-point range. That will usually win you a game against a team shooting 41%.
It wasn't that exciting, either. There wasn't great ball movement. Shaq didn't get doubles and kick. The Suns were just left open. Wide open. On one play, Shaq made a back-door cut on the baseline and Amare hit him from the high post. If Pop's team did that, the bottom of the AlamoDome would be turned into Abu Ghraib. When Shaq gets a full-court pass from under the Suns' basket for a dunk, you know someone missed an assignment.
Nothing was contested. Amare posterized The Principal for his first 2 and after that, no one on the Clips seemed to want to try to take a charge. Amare also had three assists. Apart from finding Shaq, he did pass out of a triple-team to find LB for a 3.
The main reason that it was close was because the Suns were over 60% going into the final 6 minutes and the Clippers were under 40%. That, and Marcus Camby kept the Clips in the game with 23 boards (11 on the offensive end). He had 23 of his team's 44 (that's over half) while the Suns as a team only had 37 boards. The Suns also had 10 or 12 turnovers in the second half (14 for the entire game) that allowed the Clips to close the gap to 6 in the third period.
Sweet Lou had the game of his career and left the game (for the starters to return) in the 4th to chants of "Looooouuuuu, Looooouuuuu" (you know, the kind that kinda sound like "boo"). His line was 9 and 5, but he did a lot of the "little things that don't show up in the box score." Now, if he could only do those things that do show up in the box score, like hit more than 1 of 6 free throws, catch iron on a fastbreak lay-up, or not throw the ball to the wrong team after a great hustle O-Board. Interestingly, he was the 6th man into the game when Shaq stepped off the court.
Oh, and anyone who didn't get to watch missed a great finish by Lou Armstrong (he bikes, get it?). It was a sweet lob from LB to Lou. I saw it developing and was wondering if LB was going to try it. I'll try to find video of it and post it here for everyone to see. It was even better than the Shaq-to-JSun reverse dunk (try to find that one, too).
On the t-shirt toss:
JSun2 was a bit upset that he had to wear his Amare Stoudemire jersey to the game when his favorite player is Shaq. He was talking to the lady next to him during the game -- Debbie, a 5th grade teacher with two teenage sons -- and telling him that his favorite players are Shaq, Steve Nash and JSun RichardSun (he likes that we all have the same name). She caught the t-shirt and gave it to him because, in her words, he was being such a good boy. I think she really liked talking to him about Spiderman and Star Wars. They had a rather deep discussion (for a 5 year old) about Anakin turning to the Dark Side. Anyway, after the game, dear-old Dad broke down and bought him a Shaq jersey. While there, we bought one for JSun3 (that what I call my daughter, I'm like George Foreman). Shaq jerseys all around! Now that Stan's man-crush is on Shaq instead of Johan Petro, he'll probably be spending more time at the All-Shaq House.
The Clips were defeated but just kept on fighting the Suns' windmill. It was almost comical for the first 42 minutes. Those last six minutes, though -- I guess that's what Clippers fans want to see and I suppose that what those guys play for. They were just too far behind. It also may not have happened with an all-hustle team of Dudley, Sweet Lou and Fropez leading the way.
It's a needed win a there is a long rest before Indiana next Wednesday.
The boy passed out last night and didn't get to look at his t-shirt. This morning, he found out that he got a Jason Richardson t-shirt, size Adult XL. He's thrilled that its from the guy with the same name. I suggested it might just be a night shirt for a while, and he said, "Well, it's long enough, but I might have trouble with the sleeves."