Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the 1-5 Los Angeles Clippers were determined not to lose yet another preseason game, especially one on ESPN.
Eric Bledsoe and the 4-1 Phoenix Suns were just trying to survive a back-to-back after not playing heavy basketball since April.
But this is preseason, still. The Clippers rested DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford after their own back-to-back the previous night. But Blake Griffin played the whole fourth quarter, and he and Chris Paul combined for 41 and 39 minutes respectively.
The Suns had a chance to take the lead with 26 seconds left, but Marcus Morris - who had just hit a three to take the lead a minute before - missed an open three and Chris Paul went down and charged
Bledsoe the rim for the score.
The Clippers won by three after Paul scored their last four points to close it out.
Paul and Griffin combined for 69 of the Clippers 108 points in 80 minutes of playing time.
For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe scored 27 points in 34 minutes, along with 2 assists, 2 steals and a rebound. Gerald Green had 23 points in only 16 minutes of play. Marcus Morris had 17 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes.
None of the other Suns played nearly as well. Dragic had 4 points and 4 assists in 25 minutes. Isaiah Thomas, after scoring a ton the night before, had just 4 points and 4 assists in 16 minutes of his own.
The game started with Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe going mano-a-mano, though Blake Griffin and Gerald Green were pretty flashy in their own right.
The Suns defensive scheme in this game was to go under the screen at the top of the key to prevent Chris Paul's drives into the teeth of the defense. Paul just stepped back and went 3-for-3 from three, scoring 14 points overall, in the first quarter alone.
Bledsoe matched Paul on the other end. The Clippers, too, went under the screen and Bled went 3-for-3 on threes, with 14 points overall.
Paul was matched up on Goran Dragic in the first quarter defensively and managed to keep Dragic quiet while Bledsoe and five other Suns scored 33 to lead by 5 at the end of the first (33-28).
The second unit stretched the lead to 8 before the Clippers brought back Paul and Griffin after 7 minutes. Green, Tucker and Thomas combined to go 7-for-9 in the second quarter, but the Clippers outscored the Suns 30-28 to cut the halftime lead to 3 (61-58).
Gerald Green finished the first half with 14 big points, and Eric Bledsoe had 16.
Alex Len made his first cameo of the year, providing good mobility on defense and two rebounds but otherwise favoring his injured hand on catches, and did not take a shot.
This second unit is going to be killer all season. Just when you think you survived the Suns first unit, the combo of Thomas, Green and Tucker will kill you on the second unit.
The Suns did not come out as sharp in the second half while Chris Paul continued carving up. He had a clean steal and breakaway on Dragic that set the tone and gave the Clippers their first lead since the first quarter.
Chris Paul then went all Chris Paul, hounding Markieff Morris all the way down the court till he got a steal, then hounding the Suns into another near-turnover on the nest possession.
The Suns played some defense of their own, but could not make many shots and fell behind. Goran Dragic just could not get untracked and Chris Paul kept getting "Paul calls".
For the record, the third quarter was really ugly. Neither team was sharp. Turnovers abounded.
Alex Len came back out in the second half with the starters when Plumlee picked up his fifth foul and gave some good minutes. He forced the Clippers to change their shot several times, but really isn't totally sure what the heck he's doing out there. Scratch that: he had no clue what he was doing, was going just on instinct.
The Suns offense was dead, though. They scored just 14 points (two field goals) against 10 turnovers until Gerald Green made a couple of shots to close out the third.
The Suns ended the third with a 1-point lead (80-79) because they played improved defense and made free throws (10) in between their miscues.
The fourth quarter got even uglier than the third. When P.J. Tucker clipped J.J. Redick 25 feet from the rim with .01 left no the shot clock, you knew it wasn't the Suns night. When Hedo followed that up with a 20-foot bank shot, the nail was in the coffin.
The Clippers kept Blake Griffin for the start of the 4th and brought Chris Paul back early. Probably to ensure they don't go 1-6 in preseason. The Clippers pulled out to a 5-point lead on the back of a few Griffin jumpers that make him really tough to guard. The two had combined for 21-of-36 from the field in 65 minutes by the 6 minute mark of the 4th. In a preseason game.
But then Dragic and Bledsoe rejoined the fray and the Suns began to score again.