The Los Angeles Clippers are such a hard working team, and they made a ton of shots to stay in this game against the best team in the NBA all the way to end.
With 5:00 minutes left and the score tied 90-90, the ball was in Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul’s hands. He made sure the Suns closed this one out, scoring or assisting on every basket in a 12-5 run to put the Suns up 102-95 with 39.4 seconds to go.
Sure nice to have the league’s best playmaker on your team in the closing minutes. The Suns are now a league-best 23-3 in the clutch, and a league-best 47-10 overall this season.
- Devin Booker: 26 points, 4 assists, 3 steals
- Chris Paul: 17 points, 14 assists
- Deandre Ayton: 12 points, 12 rebounds
- Mikal Bridges: 19 points, 9 rebounds
The Clippers, coming off a convincing win over the second-place Warriors, came in hot and ready to play the Suns, taking a 13-5 lead over the Suns in the opening minutes. Ivica Zubac had a quick 7 points, 4 rebounds, block and assist in the first five minutes, as the Clips made 7 of their first 8 shots inside the arc. On the other end, the Clippers were on point on every rotation defensively. The Suns really needed to wake up.
Suns were still down, 21-14 with 4 minutes to play in the first, and Deandre Ayton was just not engaged in this game. He started 0-4 from the field and did not grab a rebound in his first 8 minutes of play. He was replaced a possession later, where he passed out of an open layup when the defense did not converge like he expected, with JaVale McGee.
McGee wasn’t much better, and Ivica Zubac almost finished the quarter with a double-double. He had 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.
Clippers up 26-22 after one.
Starting the second quarter, Aaron Holiday made some nice plays, a transition three, a tipped pass that caused a turnover, and a fast-break contest that turned a sure dunk into an empty possession. Soon the score was tied 31-31.
A fan in the Solar Panel chat last Saturday said Holiday is Jevon Carter with hair and in this stint he totally played that part.
Monty Williams’ new ‘all bench’ lineup — Elfrid Payton, Cameron Johnson, JaVale McGee and the newcomers Aaron Holiday and Torrey Craig — actually looked okay out there. (I’m looking forward to that lineup having Payne/Shamet in there over Payton... and well, I think Shamet will beat out Holiday but who knows...)
Marcus Morris quieted the boos that followed him all first quarter with four straight long jumpers for nine quick points to keep the Clippers in the game — he had all nine of the Clips points.
The all-benchies got the Suns back to even, 35-35, before some starters were brought back in. That’s a 13-9 run :)
A minute later, Chris Paul gave the Suns their first lead of the game, 37-35 on a jumper.
Ayton finally found his touch with a trio of quick scores on feeds from CP and soon the Suns were up 47-40. Nestled in there were a flurry of Suns steals on the other end with their quick hands knocking down all the Clippers attempts to move the ball around.
Back with the starters, the Clippers are challenging every shot at the rim and that’s bothering DA. He got blocked again, this time by Robert Covington from behind after avoiding Zubac. Nic Batum, RoCo and Zubac all are so long they can contest without fouling. And that doesn’t consider Terance Mann and Reggie Jackson! (Just wait till Paul George and Kawhi Leonard come back... that team would be the Suns greatest competition!)
Neither team is shooting well from three-point land (6/18 for Clips, 3/11 for Suns) but Suns are scoring much better inside the line. After starting 6/7, the Clips made only 8/25 inside the line the rest of the half.
DA played better in the second quarter, with 8 points, 8 rebounds and a block while holding Zubac to almost nothing (0 points, 1 rebound) — basically flipping that first quarter.
Suns up 53-47 at half.
To kick off the second half, the Clippers were going full-Marcus for a bit, getting him the ball three straight times. He made his first, to up his numbers to 7 of 10 shooting, but had a near-turnover and a missed shot on two others. Later, he made a driving layup to surprise the Suns.
This Clips starting lineup is long and active, and took their first lead of the second half at 58-57 on a transition dunk to Zubac. This lineup with Nicolas Batum ball-hawking anyone from Booker to Paul is really causing problems.
The Suns were showing some problems getting control of loose balls, several times touching/tapping but not quite handling it before it went out of bounds or to a Clipper — until Book poked another pass that actually got to Mikal Bridges for a breakaway dunk as I typed that out.
The game was tied at 66-66 with 5:19 left after the Clippers made a series of incredibly tough shots and hustle put-backs off misses. Just seems like we could see a Suns run pretty quickly here.
And lo and behold, the Suns went on a 8-0 run before both teams started going to their benches a bit, a run that stretched to 15-2 to give the Suns a lead as high as 13. Devin Booker had 23 points on 10/14 shooting while both Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton had double doubles (each had 10 and 10).
Suns up 81-72 after three.
The Suns began the fourth with that all-bench unit again. They didn’t do as well this time around, committing turnovers and allowing a pair of open threes to Luke Kennard on the way to allowing an 8-2 run to make it a game again.
After going up 81-68, the Suns have now only scored 2 points in the last 4.5 minutes of play. Suns up only 83-80.
Chris Paul is back with the bench unit, in place of Elfrid. We still miss Cam Payne. They still couldn’t score well, even with Paul back, because the other guys had lost their mojo and no one could get the ball to Cam Johnson until Paul finally found him for a three.
JaVale McGee was struggling and at one point had himself pulled from the game as it was tied 88-88. Next possession, Robert Covington got the steal coming around Ayton on a post-seal, and Reggie Jackson gave the Clips the lead.
For some reason, the Suns are just not playing at full speed in this one and the Clippers were playing their butts off to get to every loose ball. The Suns getting a loose ball so rare, this thirsty crowd roared all the way to a Chris Paul three to put the Suns up 93-90 with 4:55 to go.
What time is it, Suns fans?
Oh yeah. It’s CLUTCH TIME.
On the next two Suns possessions, Paul dished an oop to Ayton then an oop to Devin Booker. He missed a three, then made a driving layup.
Marcus Morris kept the Clippers alive with a three, but Mikal Bridges put the Clippers away with a three... on another assist from Chris Paul.
Damn, these Suns are so good at closing games!
Suns win, 103-96.