The Phoenix Suns played their best game of the 2013-14 season to defeat the Clippers 107-88 in what could be called a "statement game" for Phoenix. And frankly, the game wasn't even as close as the final score suggests.
The story entering the game was Eric Bledsoe's return to LA against his former mentor and team, Chris Paul and the Clippers. However, it was Goran Dragic who (literally) stole the show right from the get-go. By half-time, Dragic had 20 points, 4 assists, and 5 steals to lead the Suns to a 61-40 lead at the break. Dragic's play was a sight to behold, as he carved up the Clippers defense repeatedly and got whatever he wanted. Simply put, it was a fitting game to cap the Year of the Dragon.
The Suns opened the game with a 9-0 run and never looked back, as the Clippers just seemed a step slow the entire night. Phoenix's first points of the game came on a breakaway dunk by Dragic, and that fit the theme for the night. Dragic finished the quarter with 13 points and the Suns held a 30-24 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter might have been the best period the Suns have had on both ends of the court. Behind fantastic play from Gerald Green and Dragic, along with some stymying defense on the Clippers, the Suns outscored 31-16 in the second quarter and took a 21 point lead into halftime.
The Suns didn't cool off one bit after halftime, as they continued to expand their lead and turn this game into an absolute disaster for the Clippers. Channing Frye led the way with a trio of threes in the quarter, leading fans to wonder if perhaps Green had passed the torch to Frye at halftime. However, Green proved that he wasn't done either, continuing his torrid shooting from the first half. The Suns won the quarter 27-19 and carried a 29 point lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was almost entirely "garbage time," as both teams realized quickly that the game was completely over. The Clippers reserves managed to cut the Suns' lead with a 29-19 quarter, resulting in a final score of 107-88. Dionte Christmas did manage to shine in this meaningless period, posting 7 points on 3-4 shooting in less than 6 minutes.
- The Dragon: this was the best start-to-finish performance for Goran Dragic, which led to him not playing a single minute of the fourth quarter. Still, Dragic finished with 28 points (on 10-15 shooting from the field), 8 assists and 5 steals in 31 minutes. He also had the highest +/- of the game with a +27.
- Gerald Gr33n: Gerald Green was unconscious tonight, seemingly hitting everything he put up. Hornacek has given him the greenest of lights (pun absolutely intended) in this offense, and Green hasn't been shy about taking his shots. He took (and made) several pull-up threes on the break tonight, yet they never once felt like bad shots. That says a lot about how well he has fit into his role on this team.
- PJ "Padlock" Tucker: PJ Tucker had a solid all-around game, finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.
- Professor Plumbledore: Miles Plumlee only played 21 minutes tonight, but he ended up with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Miles Plumbledore even got the better of Blake Griffindor by blocking him on more than one occasion (Griffin had his shot blocked 5 total times).
- Channing FYRE: Frye played great defense on Blake Griffin tonight, bothering him all night was some savvy post defense. Griffin, fresh off a 40-point performance against Utah, only scored 15 points on 5-15 shooting.
- Chief Kieff: Markieff Morris came off the bench to provide 11 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and some solid defense in 30 minutes. He played a role in Phoenix's big second quarter run and had a strong showing tonight.
Overall, this was definitely the best performance of Suns' season. After a brutal road loss against another division foe, the Golden State Warriors, just two games ago, the Suns turned in a fantastic all-around performance against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. And this was with Bledsoe having a subpar game (7 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) in his return to Staples Center to face his former team.
The Clippers shot less than 37% from the field and had 20 turnovers (Phoenix recorded a season-high 17 steals). Chris Paul had 11 points on 14 shots and really, no Clipper had a very good game. Jamal Crawford was inefficient as well but Jared Dudley managed to score 9 points on 3-5 shooting. DeAndre Jordan only scored 2 points (on just 2 shots) but corralled 19 rebounds.
Let's see some Twitter reactions to the game:
Chris Paul said this was probably his worst loss as a Clipper.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 31, 2013
Chis Paul called the blow out loss to the Suns, "an old fashioned butt whoopin'."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 31, 2013
Tonight was a good win. Not because of the score but because we played hard, unselfish, and together. We have to continue to stay hungry.— Channing Frye (@Channing_Frye) December 31, 2013
There is some serious Stockton inside of Dragic.— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) December 31, 2013
Great win on the Road today against a Tuff clipper team....Let's keep it Rollin!..#SUNS— Dionte Christmas (@Dchristmas22) December 31, 2013
Enjoy this victory, Suns fans. No matter what, just remember to be grateful that the Suns went from Lance Blanks, Lindsey Hunter, and Michael Beasley to Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek, and Eric Bledsoe all in the same year.
Hope everyone has as much fun with the end of 2013 as the Suns did tonight. And here's to a great 2014 for the Suns and for all of us!
The future is bright. Ignite it.