The Los Angeles Clippers got their franchise record 50th win of the season in their fourth try, a 126-101 romp over the last place team in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns. The win gives the Clippers their first 50 win season in franchise history, and also reduces the magic number for their first ever Pacific Division title to a just one game.
After losing four of their last five games, three of them in heartbreaking fashion, and dropping to fifth place in the Conference standings, the Clippers really needed a game to remind them of who they are, and the Suns were just what the doctor ordered. Kenny Smith might call the Suns chicken soup in this situation -- because the Clippers weren't feeling well, but the Suns made them feel a whole lot better.
The Clippers scored the first 15 points of the game and it seemed as if the rout was on, but as it happened the real fun would have to be deferred until the second half. After a start that saw them miss 12 of their first 13 shots, the Suns got hot the rest of the first half. They scored 10 straight to cut the lead to 15-10, and at one point in the second quarter got to within a single basket. The Clippers reasserted themselves a bit before halftime before settling for a seven point lead at the break.
The third quarter is when things started to really click for the Clippers. With Chris Paul registering steals on one end and assists on the other, DeAndre Jordan dunking everything in sight and Willie Green scoring 11 of his season-high 15 points in the quarter, the Clippers took full control of the game. L.A. won the quarter 38-20 and the Clippers entered the fourth quarter with the 25 point lead that would be the final margin in the game.
It remains to be seen if this is the game that gets the Clippers going, however. The Suns, it must be said, are pretty terrible right now, and beating up on Phoenix, while always fun, doesn't prove a lot. Still, confidence is a funny thing, and a dominant performance, against any team, might be what the Clippers need to get back on track. They have two more home games coming up before going back out onto the road, including their next game against the dreaded Lakers on Sunday. The Clippers really need to run the table on their remaining schedule, and other than their showdown in Memphis against the Grizzlies a week from Saturday, they will be favored in all of their games.
Jordan finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds on 10-15 shooting in 30 minutes of play. It was just the third 20/10 game of DeAndre's career, and his first since November. In addition to Jordan, five other Clippers scored in double figures, and neither leading scorer Blake Griffin nor fourth leading scorer Matt Barnes were among them.
The fact that Griffin remained relatively quiet is perhaps the only blemish in the game (though the first half defense did leave something to be desired). Griffin wasn't needed in this one, so his 4-7 shooting in 27 minutes is fine. But there will be games in the near future in which Griffin will be needed, and he hasn't had a big game in a couple of weeks now.
Still, this was at the very least a confidence builder for the Clippers. They now have three days to rest up and prepare for the Lakers, and they have a positive feeling as they go into this little break. They need to attack the Lakers game the same way they attacked the second half against the Suns and they need to get Griffin going as well. They remain a game and a half behind the Grizzlies and Nuggets, both of whom won tonight, but if they can win their final six games, they should be able to catch at least one if not both of their rivals. Wednesday night was a good start on their goal of winning out on the rest of the season.
For the Phoenix perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.