The Phoenix Suns played the Los Angeles Clippers for the second time in a week, and the result was the same. A loss for the Suns. This time, however, there was no late-game comeback. No, it was just another fourth quarter in which the worst Q4 team in the NBA allowed themselves to be blown into orbit.
The Suns were outscored 37-20 in the fourth and lost 138-111.
Kevin Durant was his normal, efficient self as he led all Suns in scoring with 40 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Devin Booker had a rough night, posting more turnovers (6) than assists (5). Bradley Beal was average as well, scoring 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
All starters for the Clippers scored in double figures, led by the 25 points scored by Paul George. James Harden had 19 points and 10 assists, and Kawhi Leonard added 17.
The Clippers had more hustle and desire in all aspects of the game. If and when they missed shots — they shot 62.4% on the night — they followed them with offensive rebounds and put back dunks. On the defensive end, they played with physicality and intellect, switching appropriately and clogging passing lanes.
They simply outplayed Phoenix in every facet of the game.
The Suns are now 4-2 in the second game of a back-to-back this season and fall to 19-18 on the season. They are 3-7 against teams in the Pacific Division.
The Phoenix Suns would have two key players that were not available in last week’s loss to the Clippers as both Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon were available on Monday night. This game would feature the closest we’ve seen to a complete roster thus far this season. It only took 37 games.
It was a fairly even affair early on as balanced scoring by each team kept the game close through the first moments of the quarter. The only difference? As expected, the Clippers were launching from range and connecting, and when they missed, Phoenix was having a hard time corralling the boards.
Brad Beal was aggressive on both ends of the floor, generating a pair of steals and using his hesitation move to easily get to the cylinder.
There would be no repeat of last Wednesday, a game in which the Suns went down 17 in the first quarter to the fireballing Clippers.
Both teams shot lights out in the opening period and, given the level of talent on the floor, it’s understandable as to why. But it was Ivica Zubac on the interior who was making an impact. Zubac, who was coming off a 22-point performance against the Lakers on Sunday night, scored 8 points in the first.
Ivica Zubac is having an all-you-can-eat buffet on this back-to-back— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) January 9, 2024
Already has 8 points on 4 shots.
But Suns lead 27-26 with 2:44 left in 1st quarter. Both teams well over 60% FGs
Phoenix shot 55% in the quarter, but the Clippers countered by shooting 65.2%. Both teams were 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. After one, Clippers up 34-31, led by Paul George’s 10. Both Booker and Durant had 7 points each.
The second opener with a more physical type of play as the Suns began to feel the defensive pressure inflicted by the Clippers.
Second chance continued to hurt Phoenix as, on the oft occasion Los Angeles would miss, they would retrieve their miss. Against a team that scores at the rate that the Clippers do, you have to avoid that.
Josh Okogie has had his share of challenges this season, but in the second quarter, his level of play contributed to the Suns' success. An offensive rebound turned into a putback layup. A steal in transition. It has been a while since we’ve seen JO, leave his impact on a game, and for a few moments in the second, that is what occurred.
JO showing off why they call him Non-Stop! pic.twitter.com/9feZWVfL6t— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 9, 2024
Kevin Durant was engaged offensively in the second quarter, scoring 10 points in the first six minutes and pushing the Suns lead to 48-44 on a three-pointer. He would finish with 13 in the quarter on 20 in the half for Phoenix.
When Paul George returned to the game for Los Angeles, so too did the ball movement and effective shooting for the team. Their stars have gravity as well, and seeing as this team has played together for multiple games, they know how to use it to their advantage.
They were whipping the ball around and finding the open shooter, and they were knocking down their shots accordingly. The Clippers put together a 13-2 scoring run midway through the second to take a six-point lead.
The Clippers shot much better from three-point range in the second quarter, hitting 6-of-10 attempts. They shot 66.7% overall in the first half and, led by 15 from PG13 and James Harden, carried a 71-63 lead into the half.
First half takeaway: Clippers are really damn good. Second straight matchup they're hitting tough shots. Suns defense could always be better, but if your takeaway from the first half is anything other than "Clippers good," we're watching different sports— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) January 9, 2024
The Clippers continued their hot shooting out of the gate, expanding their lead to 13 points as Terence Mann hit a three-pointer. The Clippers’ version of Grayson Allen, as defenses collapse, Mann finds himself open. When he hits shots, L.A. is hard to beat.
Los Angeles opened on a 10-7 run.
Every loose ball and hustle play seemed to go the Clippers' way. I don’t know if it was tired legs, but the Clippers played last night as well, so I don’t know if I could truly blame it on that. If there was a deflection, it ended up in the hands of Los Angeles.
Clippers get three shots on rim on that previous possession that ended with George off glass.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) January 9, 2024
Hard to win when allowing 10-of-21 from 3, 58.6% FG overall and give up 34 points in the paint.#Suns still only down 10 despite those numbers. 85-75 with 4:30 left in 3rd. #Clippers
Jusuf Nurkic made his way to the locker room with 6:42 left in the third. L.A. pounded the interior in response. Ivica Zubac was having his way and was a primary reason as to why the Suns were getting eviscerated on the glass. Through three quarters the Clippers outrebounded the Suns 33-19.
Los Angeles outscored Phoenix 30-28 in the third, expanding their lead to 101-91 entering the fourth.
Phoenix has struggled to begin fourth quarters quite often this season, so Frank Vogel adjusted. He started the fourth quarter with Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal on the court at the same time. In the past, it was either Beal or Booker solo while the other two stars rested.
The Suns didn’t allow a 13-1 run like they did the previous night to the Grizzlies, but as the period progressed, Los Angeles won possession after possession.
It was a 15-5 run to start the fourth and a 20-point deficit for the Suns with 8 minutes left in the game as the Clippers once again couldn’t miss.
Phoenix committed numerous turnovers in the fourth, leading to countless points for L.A. The Suns were outscored 37-20 in the fourth. Same script, different night.
The Suns will remain in Los Angeles, playing the Lakers on Thursday night. Phoenix has yet to beat the Lakers, as they are 0-3 thus far this season. Time to reverse that trend, eh?
We shall see you then!