There were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Awful shooting offset by some career highs from role players in a fun win over the LA Clippers.
In the end, Chris Paul willed the Suns to this win with a work-hard triple double (14 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds) to make up for his 5-14 shooting, while Jalen Smith hustled his way tie his career highs in both scoring (19) and rebounding (14). Cameron Johnson carried the Suns first half offense, with 17 of his career high 24 points. Justin Jackson set a Suns-high with 8 points off the bench (3/4 and 2/3).
The Suns now have a league-leading 30 wins on the season against only 8 losses, their second-best season start ever in 54 years as a franchise.
The Suns came out ice cold, leaving every shot short, and quickly found themselves down 14-7 after Marcus Morris Sr. made a couple of free throws on an ill-advised shooting foul. Early shooting for the Suns starting lineup: 3-13 from the floor, including Devin Booker at 0-6.
Ish Wainright was an early sub, first Sun off the bench, to replace none other than Mikal Bridges. Ish was out there to counter the Clippers length with Morris, Ibaka and Nicolas Batum out there together.
Cam Johnson saved the Suns early scoring, making 3 of 4 shots, including a pair of threes, to get the Suns back into it. Then Devin Booker found the range on a couple of close shots to give the Suns a 10-0 run and a 17-14 lead to force a Clippers timeout.
After that, the quarter got really sloppy, with the two teams combining for only 10 points the last 3:40 of the quarter. U. G. L. Y. Cam Payne was especially egregious, with 2 turnovers and 2 missed shows.
Justin Jackson. signed three days ago, came in with the bench to start the second quarter and quickly drained a three, grabbed a pair of rebounds, made a shot in the paint and helped force a turnover. WOW.
Payne was much better to start this quarter too, with 10 points and a pair of assists as the Suns took a 36-22 lead on the Clippers just four minutes into the quarter. Clippers are 0-10 on threes at this point, shooting just 30% from the field overall.
Jalen Smith had a trio of nice shots with his touch and presence around the basket in his second stint against Serge Ibaka. One was a bump into Serge’s chest to create some separation for a lefty hook, and another was stepping into a midrange jumper when Ibaka gave him room to shoot. That’s a good development for this young player against a really good vet.
The level of play picked up for both teams when the two starting units came back on together, adding a bit of entertainment and giving the crowd some life.
Cameron Johnson remained on FIRE, and finished the half with 17 points (has to be career-high for a half, right?) on 6-8 shooting, including 3-3 on threes, plus 5 rebounds and an assist. Cameron Payne has 10 points and 3 assists, Booker and Smith both have 9.
Suns up 56-40 at halftime.
The Suns started the second half the way they started the first half, this time scoring only two points in four full minutes until Chris Paul drained a three.
Chris Paul made a patented middy, Mikal Bridges made a couple of floaters and soon the Suns found themselves back up to a 17-point lead, 69-52.
The Clippers made some shots while the Suns started just missing again (Booker is now 4-16 for the game) to pull the deficit back under 10, at 73-64, to force a Monty Williams timeout. Devin Booker has now missed 13 of 17 shots, including 0-5 on threes, while Mikal Bridges has missed 7 of 9 shots. The pair have only scored 13 points between them.
Once again, end of quarter equals mostly the end of scoring. Third quarter ends with the Suns leading 75-66. Let’s go ahead and credit the defenses for a great showing. Cameron Johnson leads the Suns with 19 points (but only 2 in the third).
The game got real scrappy to start the fourth, with both teams scrambling to get their hands on the ball on every pass of every possession. The Clippers briefly cut the lead to 3 (79-76) on a breakaway off a triple-steal scramble play, but then the Suns scored four quick points to push it back to 7 with 7:36 left (83-76).
Oh.. the two teams are combining for 38% shooting right now — nearly 41 minutes into this game. Suns up 83-76.
The Suns went on to win their 30th game of the season with some extra hustle.