On Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns made their way to Los Angeles on the second night of a back-to-back after losing at home last night to the Charlotte Hornets. The Suns came in hungry for a divisional win and hoped to the catch the Clippers napping since the Clippers haven't played since Monday night, when they lost their own heartbreaker to the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams desperately needed to get back onto the right side of the win column.
The action got off to a flying start during this game when the Clippers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks in large part to J.J. Redick's ability to hit shots that he's hit throughout his career. The two shots were things of beauty, actually. On the first one, Redick caught the ball on his customary curl off of a DeAndre Jordan high screen and squared up to shoot. Pure. On the second one, Chris Paul passed ahead to Blake Griffin on a fast break and Griffin found Redick in the corner for a three. Once again, pure. With the game knotted at 13-13 midway through the first frame, Paul ran a pick-and-roll with DeAndre Jordan and hit him with a pinpoint alley-oop for the jam. And when the Clippers needed a little bit of an extra cushion in the quarter, Paul found Matt Barnes in the corner to put the Clippers up six with 2:30 to go. The Clippers had a 7 point lead in the waning seconds of the quarter when Goran Dragic drove the length of the floor and found P.J. Tucker in the corner for three just as the buzzer sounded to cut the Clippers lead down to 27-23.
In the second quarter, the script was flipped and it was the Suns, not the Clippers, in command of the tempo and rhythm of the game. That was thanks to, in large part, the stellar play of the enigmatic Gerald Green. He was 4-for-10 from the field in the quarter but he nailed three of his five shots from beyond the arc and finished the frame with 11 points. On top of that, Alex Len pitched in with 8 points. The highlight of the quarter for the Clippers was the high-low lob from Blake Griffin to DeAndre Jordan that is nearly unstoppable when executed properly. With time running down in the second quarter, Chris Paul hit a floater to tie the game at 54-54 going into halftime. The Suns won the quarter and had the Clippers searching for some answers since Phoenix didn't turn the ball over a single time in the period and registered 18 points in the paint.
In the third quarter, the Clippers just started to pull away. In total, the Clippers outscored the Suns 42-20 in the quarter and did so thanks to going 13-for-18 from the field while holding Phoenix to a paltry 6-for-22. They also held Phoenix to just 8 total points in the paint during the quarter. They were shutting everything down and the big reason for that was the man in the middle, DeAndre Jordan. He was swatting Markieff Morris, swatting Eric Bledsoe which led to a transition Chris Paul corner three, and generally just altering shots the entire quarter. He was a massive deterrent to what Phoenix was trying to accomplish. In the quarter alone, DeAndre Jordan had 4 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 blocks. He also had this sweet alley-oop and-one later on in the period. Chris Paul also chipped in with 11 points and 6 assists in third quarter and Blake Griffin pitched in 8 points of his own, two coming on this thunderous dunk. After the third quarter dust had finally settled, the Clippers were up 96-74 and looking as if they were going to cruise to victory.
But not so fast, my friend. Over the first six minutes of the final quarter, the Phoenix Suns cut the Clippers lead from 22 all the way down to 11. All but two points by Phoenix in that 20-9 run were scored by Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. The other two points were scored by Alex Len. Chris Paul stole the show in the final six minutes of the game, scoring 12 of his game-high 32 points in just a four minute stretch. To say he led this team to victory would be an understatement. He powered them. Both with his passing and his scoring. It was a true virtuoso performance by Chris Paul. When the final buzzer sounded, the Clippers had vanquished the Phoenix Suns, 120-107.
The team performed well. It's hard to tell how much of the second half, especially that third quarter run, was fueled by Phoenix's late arrival into Los Angeles due to playing last night and losing a game that they led by 14 points after the first quarter. Tired legs can kill a team on the second night of a back-to-back and perhaps tonight was no different. But the Clippers helped put Phoenix into that grave. The Clippers shot 48.5% in the first quarter and the main reason the game was tied at the half was because the Clippers had 10 turnovers, which the Suns turned into 14 points, and because Phoenix rattled off 32 points in the paint. The Clippers cleaned up one of those problems in the second half, though. While the Clippers still turned the ball over 11 times in the second half, which led to 16 Phoenix points, they only gave up 20 points in the paint. They were limiting the shots Phoenix was getting.
It's never good when a team gives up 52 points in the paint during a game and only gets 30 themselves, but the Clippers really slowed Phoenix down in the second half by not allowing the Suns to get into the paint as easily. And while Phoenix did have 16 offensive rebounds tonight, those second chances only turned into 13 second chance points. You can thank DeAndre Jordan for that. All-in-all, this was a good team win against a team that is dangerous. The Clippers took care of business. It's as simple as that. But there were some encouraging signs.
Chris Paul was the Point Gawd tonight. He finished with 32 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals while shooting 10-for-13 from the field and nailing five threes. He was on point and outdueled former protegee Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe struggled tonight, going 0-for-6 from the field and finishing with a meager one point. He did have 10 assists and 6 rebounds, though. And he also picked up a technical foul. Paul, in the fourth quarter, had a play where he turned Goran Dragic around like a top and knocked down a crucial three to ice the game for good.
Blake Griffin generally had his way with the Phoenix bigs tonight and finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists on 7-for-12 shooting. Griffin was 3-for-5 inside of 8 feet tonight but only took two shots from 16+ feet. He made one of them. He was aggressive, looking to attack, and did a lot of good things out there. Griffin also had a really nice play tonight where he took the ball from one end of the court all the way to the other end of the court and made it look ridiculously easy for a power forward.
DeAndre Jordan finished with 12 points, 18 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 3 assists on 4-for-4 from the field. He was also 4-for-7 from the free throw line. DeAndre Jordan came to play tonight. This was "max contract" DeAndre Jordan. Don't let the points in the paint by Phoenix tonight fool you with how good Jordan truly was. He was fantastic and was probably the Player of the Game up until Chris Paul's late flurry to put the game away. But forget about Player of the Game. This was a big three tonight. They all came to play in different ways and showcased what they can do as a unit. It was special.
Rounding out the Clippers performances tonight, Matt Barnes had 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting and got ejected for two technicals, J.J. Redick had 14 points on 3-for-8 shooting, and Spencer Hawes had his highest scoring game of the year tonight with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting while also having 8 rebounds. Jamal Crawford also had 9 points tonight but looked rusty for the second game in a row. Jordan Farmar and Reggie Bullock each had 3 points and Glen Davis had 2 points off of free throws.
Gerald Green had a team-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting and nailed four of his eight three-point attempts before getting tossed due to picking two technical fouls. Goran Dragic had 19 points, Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and 7 assists, and Alex Len had a great game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. P.J. Tucker and Miles Plumlee each had 8 points. The Morrii, Markieff and Marcus, had a rough night. They combined for just 8 points on 3-for-20 shooting. They were just no match for the Clippers bigs tonight but Phoenix at least got a great contribution from Alex Len to kind of offset that.
Next up for the Los Angeles Clippers is the Chicago Bulls. Chicago lost at home to the Indiana Pacers tonight in what was a somewhat shocking result. The Bulls will come in ready to right the ship and the Clippers will be looking to continue their good mojo from this game. The Clippers will need 48 minutes of hardwork and teamwork to beat Chicago's monstrous front line and great backcourt that's spearheaded by former MVP Derrick Rose. The Clippers showed tonight that they have the potential for great things. The third quarter was the best quarter they've had all season both in results and effort. They need to keep that up in order to go on a run and set the tone for the rest of the season.
Chris Paul is the only player in NBA history to have a 30-5-9 line on 75% shooting and make 5 threes in a game.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) November 16, 2014