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Recap: Suns Fall to Depleted Clippers, 109-98

A stagnant offense couldn’t get it done for the Suns in LA.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers lost their last two games to Houston and Oklahoma City by a combined 50 points. They had dropped six straight. But tonight, they found a way to handle the struggling Suns even without Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Wesley Johnson.

The Suns were completely healthy, and yet they couldn’t stop a team claiming DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford as its best players. Many of you will applaud the fact that tonight’s loss signals that the team is one game closer to the first pick, and that much is true. But this was a winnable game, and it’s confounding that the Suns never seemed close to winning this one when they played Utah close and even beat Toronto.

Let’s start with the good news. Coming off a terrible game in which the Suns dished out only nine assists, the league’s worst passing team actually put up 22 assists and only 12 turnovers tonight. Eric Bledsoe dished out nine assists, and Barbosa came up with four in only nine minutes. The Clippers struggled to make plays without Chris Paul, turning the ball over 20 times and fueling the Suns on the fastbreak.

But as usual, it was the Suns’ halfcourt offense that was stagnant. T.J. Warren looked terrific, with 24 points and eight rebounds on 12-20 shooting. But Bledsoe and Booker combined to shoot just 12-42, and the three rookies shot 1-9 collectively. Outside of Warren and possibly Alex Len, who came up with 10 points and seven boards in 20 minutes, there were no bright spots in terms of efficiency.

Brandon Knight played just seven minutes tonight, all of which were in the first half. It really does look like the team is waiting to trade him if this continues. In other news, Jared Dudley actually got in the game but took just one shot in five minutes.

The Suns are next in action tonight at home against Miami. Without Whiteside and Dragic, the Heat will be vulnerable. But the Clippers were vulnerable tonight, and it didn’t make a difference.

First Half

The Clippers opened up the game hot, mostly thanks to the terrific shooting of J.J. Redick. Redick must be one of the NBA’s most underrated players, as he looked like a legitimate first option in the opening quarter with nine points.

The Suns got their fair share of opportunities, mostly by forcing eight early turnovers for some easy fastbreak points. But their fastbreak points were at least partially neutralized by four turnovers of their own in the first quarter.

T.J. Warren looks great tonight! 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first for Rush Hour (I still don’t like that nickname).

Quarter ends with the Clippers up 27-26.

The second quarter began with two straight Alex Len dunks. Not surprising that both were created by Barbosa, who looks like more of a playmaker on the second unit than Brandon Knight.

The bench really struggled in this quarter with fouls and forced shots, as the team was down 10 by the time Bledsoe, Booker and Warren checked in with seven minutes remaining.

The starters managed only to cut that lead to 6 by halftime, with the Clippers up 64-58.

This looks like a winnable game, as the Clippers have committed 12 turnovers in the first half alone. But the Suns have to stay out of foul trouble and stop sending Clippers players to the line. Los Angeles outnumbers Phoenix 22-10 in free throw attempts.

Second Half

Things are coming apart in the third, as the Suns’ defense has completely fallen asleep. Ulis checked in halfway through the quarter, but it’s only getting worse. A 12-0 run by LA has made this a 17-point game, and it doesn’t look likely to turn back in the Suns’ favor.

The Suns have only made one three to this point (1:30 left in the third), by the way. They’re shooting 40 percent from the field to the Clippers’ 53 percent.

Make that a 14-0 run. Yikes.

Quick 6-0 in the other direction at the end of the quarter, making it 89-76 Clippers. The only time the Suns’ offense has looked good tonight is on the fastbreak.

Did I say T.J. Warren is back? T.J. Warren is back. He now has 22 points on 11-17 shooting in the early fourth quarter.

Jared Dudley sighting! Watson is doing an interesting job of balancing youth and experience to crawl back into the game, as Dudley and Tucker are currently sharing the court with Ulis and Warren. This is extreme small ball.

Small ball success. Chandler brought back in with the Suns down 11 for the final stretch.

A win isn’t likely, but the Suns are coming back. After Jordan bricks two free throws, they’re down just 6 with one minute left. No Brandon Knight sightings this half.

J.J. Redick hits the dagger, and the technical foul called on Devin Booker for hanging on the net ensures that the tank rolls on. That’s all, folks.

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