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Phoenix Suns unable to overcome shooting woes, lose to Los Angeles Clippers 102-96

A second quarter hole and some bad, bad shooting proved too much to overcome for Phoenix in Los Angeles tonight, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Recap

Resiliency.  If the Suns can take one lesson away from this game (and they can take many), I hope resiliency is the one that sticks.  After an abominable second quarter, Phoenix scrapped their way back into this game by sticking to defensive fundamentals and not losing faith in their offense.  They took a Western Conference favorite to the wire without playing their best basketball.

Regardless, it wasn't enough.  The second quarter hole and some bad, bad shooting proved too much to overcome.  And I mean bad shooting.  Eric Bledsoe (16 points, 6-19 FG), Brandon Knight (12 points, 4-20 FG), and Markieff Morris (19 points, 7-22 FG) set the pace for Phoenix's abyssmal 37.1% shooting.  Blake Griffin (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Chris Paul (17 points, 5 assists, 5 turnovers) unsurprisingly lead the Clippers effort

Highlights for the Suns included Ronnie Price's sharpshooting from range and much success with the previously elusive Tyson Chandler lob.  Chandler finished the game with 14 points and 17 rebounds. The Suns as a team killed it on the boards, outrebounding LA 54-46, including a 16-4 edge on the offensive glass.

It was a loss, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. Leave the negatives in Staples Center and pack up the positives for the next game at Sacramento

First Half

The Suns played the Clippers tight behind a stout defensive effort.  Jumpers weren't falling for anyone, especially Markieff Morris who was 1-6 in the quarter.  But Phoenix was able to get it done down low, scoring 14 of their 23 points in the paint.  The Clippers were no great shakes on offense either.  Unsurprisingly, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul lead the charge with 6 and 7 points respectively while the rest of the squad was ice cold, going 4-14 from the field.  Suns lead 23-22 after one.

The second quarter started promisingly but turned into a disaster for Phoenix.  After building an 8 point lead behind strong bench play, the starters came in and gave it all back and then some.  The Clippers went on a 15-0 run on the strength of strong transition play on Phoenix turnovers and misses.  Lots and lots of misses.  The Suns missed 17 of their 22 shots with Morris (0-5), TJ Warren (1-5), and Brandon Knight (1-4) as particularly egregious chuckers.  Fortunately, competent defense from the Suns and poor 3-point shooting from the Clips side kept the game from getting out of hand.  Suns trail 48-39 at the half.

Second Half

Credit Jeff Hornacek for some motivating halftime words.  Phoenix came out motivated in the third quarter and promptly erased the Clippers lead. Markieff Morris found his shot and went 5-6 (including 2 3-pointers), scoring 12 points in the quarter.  Tyson Chandler did work in the paint, corralling 7 rebounds in the quarter to go with 6 emphatic points.  The Clippers however didn't go quietly and regained a 3 point lead, 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter.

For the first 6 minutes of the 4th quarter, the Clippers' and Suns' reserves traded bucket after bucket, playing to a virtual draw with LA maintaining a 4-point lead.  Unfortunately, that 4 points was as close as Phoenix would get.

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