The young Suns were still without their stars on Monday night — T.J. Warren only played 12 minutes before being ejected for arguing calls — but played their hearts out anyway and gave the visiting Clippers one hell of a game.
The Suns took a 104-95 lead on the Clippers early in the fourth quarter with a mix of hustle and Troy Daniels’ big shotmaking. But then they couldn’t hold the lead, and eventually needed a short jumper by De’Anthony Melton to tie the game at 111-111 with 5.5 seconds left to force overtime.
The Suns last went to overtime against the Celtics, also losing a late lead to a good team.
The Suns kept pace this time, scoring on Ayton deep posts and an acrobatic play by Troy Daniels to tie it at 119-119.
Then a broken play got Patrick Beverly a pair of free throws on a close block/charge call at the rim and Melton’s three clanged off the rim.
The Suns just could not hold off the shotmaking of Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris in that overtime. And foul-drawing. They combined for 20 of 21 free throws in the game and 58 total points from the field.
Turn of the game
When the Suns took a 9-point lead early in the fourth, the Clippers went really small to try to score their way back into the game but the Suns would not fold. Holmes, Bridges, Melton and Jackson all played hard all around the floor, cutting off passing lanes and driving lanes, converging on the ball at every turn. It was nice to see, to say the least. I really like Melton’s game.
With the Suns up 104-95, the Clippers called timeout to get their breath back. Igor put two starters back in (Ariza, Ayton for Holmes, Daniels) to give those guys a rest and close out the game.
Soon the Clippers had cut the lead from 105-100 and Igor had to call timeout with four minutes left.
The tide had turned. The Suns energy was gone. Neither Ayton nor Ariza were dialed in anymore. The Clippers made another three and suddenly it’s a tie game.
Back to Holmes and Daniels, but it was too late. The Clippers were on a game-ending run and nothing was going to stop them now.
Mikal Bridges made a three to bring the Suns back within one, but the Clippers scored on the next possession (even though he committed a tech to lose a point) to keep a two-point lead.
Melton made a short jumper with five seconds left to tie the game at 111-111 and force overtime.
The Clippers had just blown the Suns out two weeks ago in L.A. and still stand near the top of the Western Conference.
But the Suns played a great game behind their four rookies and sophomore forward Josh Jackson. Richaun Holmes had a usual high energy game and Troy Daniels made some shots to give the Suns the lead in the fourth.
De’Anthony Melton helped the Suns set the tone with his defense and not getting intimidated by Patrick Beverly’s hounding on the other end. He scored 13 points and dished 8 assists in a really good game by him.
Josh Jackson had possibly his best all around game of the year (18/8/4), while Deandre Ayton played really hard out of the gate against mammoth Boban Marjanovic (20/12/3/2). Even Elie Okobo had some good second half moments, riding the energy of the rest of the team.
The only slightly unexpected development is Jamal Crawford out with knee soreness. Otherwise, it’s just Devin Booker continuing to be out.
Deandre Ayton makes his first shot, and that’s a good sign. He said pregame that he really needed to establish himself against the huge Boban Marjanovic.
Trevor Ariza, on the other hand, was not in prime shape to start the game. He literally fell on himself trying to dribble the ball in the first two Suns possessions like he was drunk. The Clippers gave up the ball twice in the back court in their early possessions too, so maybe the floor was wet? Who knows.
Deandre played Boban MUCH better in this first quarter, forcing some fallaways that were short and then even blocking a Boban hook shot. Ayton even ripped the rebound away from Boban a couple times.
The Suns had an early 8-4 lead in a defensive effort spearheaded by rookies De’Anthony Melton, Mikal Bridges and Ayton. The Clippers were 2-7 with a pair of turnovers and no assists in the first five minutes. Ayton had 4 points, 3 rebounds and a block.
When Ayton finally got blocked he ran back down the other end and super-blocked the Clippers own breakaway.
First 7 minutes for Ayton against Boban: 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks. Not bad.
Ariza? Not so much. He missed several layups. Didn’t get back down on defense, giving up open shots on the other end by his absence. When the rookies are outworking you, that’s a problem.
Thanks to the rookies, the Suns are up 29-21 after the first quarter. with a sprinkle of Richaun Holmes bringing what turns out to be the same good energy as Ayton brought to kick off the game.
Unfortunately, the second unit with Elie Okobo, Josh Jackson, Holmes, Bridges and Daniels hit that wall that the Suns seem to hit every game, and suddenly the Clippers had taken the lead 37-35.
Okobo just can’t run an offense right now. He dribbles just past mid court, stops, pulls up the dribble and passes off to the first teammate who runs toward him. The offense stagnates badly.
The rest of the quarter, the Suns held even with the Clippers with some spirited defensive effort, but the Clips still made 56% of their shots.
T.J. Warren inexplicably got himself ejected late in the second quarter for arguing calls on both ends but the Suns did not fold as Josh Jackson made some crazy plays to keep the Suns in it.
58-56 Clippers at half. Josh Jackson with 14 points on 6/9 shooting with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Suns kept pace in the third quarter too, but Danilo Gallinari started doing Gallo things and kept the Clippers in the lead.
Gallo got aggressive offensively when the Suns bogged down the rest of the offense, and drove himself into Suns defenders for shooting fouls or finishes, collecting 9 points in the first five minutes of the half (5/7 field goals, 7/8 free throws for 18 points at this point).
But still the Suns held firm, getting just enough scoring to stay within a possession or two.
At one point, Mikal Bridges made three consecutive three point plays — two the long way, and one at the rim with a shooting foul.
At the end of three, the Clippers were still shooting 56% from the field, but the Suns had stayed right there with extra shots thanks to forcing more turnovers than they gave up.
The Suns even took the lead momentarily at 84-83 on a Holmes free throws, but the Clippers scored on three straight possessions despite tough defense from the Suns and had a 88-86 lead after three.
The Suns had five players in double figures by this time: Ariza (10), Ayton (15), Bridges (15), Jackson (16) and Holmes (11). And there’s a whole quarter to go (Melton is close with 9).