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Griffin leads Clippers to 124-114 win over Suns

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Despite 41 points from Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin and the Clippers notched a double-digit win in Phoenix Wednesday night.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Griffin played one of his best games of the season and led the L.A. Clippers to a sorely needed 124-114 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. The win was just LAC’s second victory over the last six games and gave them a much-needed boost ahead of yet another showdown with the Warriors on Thursday night.

Griffin played 34 minutes, easily his most since returning three games ago, and finished with 29 points, eight boards and five assists. DeAndre Jordan grabbed 12 boards before being ejected midway through the third period for a flagrant-two foul on Marquese Chriss, so Griffin’s effort was instrumental in L.A. seeing this game out.

The Clippers also got an excellent game from Raymond Felton, who started in place of Luc Mbah a Moute in order to try and match the Suns’ relatively small lineup. He scored 18 points on 7-14 shooting and corralled five rebounds, and also knocked down several important shots late.

Eric Bledsoe took full advantage of Chris Paul’s absence and dominated the Clips to the tune of 41 points, eight assists and four boards and connected on 59 percent of his shots.

Phoenix wasn’t able to do much to slow down the Clips’ attack. L.A. shot better than 52 percent from the field in the game and an excellent 82 percent from the free-throw line.

The Clippers got open looks galore to start the game. Blake Griffin hit each of his first four shots, DeAndre Jordan hit three of his first five looks and J.J. Redick connected on three of his first six attempts from the floor.

The Suns literally don’t have a legitimate power forward on the roster, so they naturally have nobody that can come close to stifling Griffin. Blake was well aware of this from the start, and racked up 13 points with three assists and three boards on perfect shooting in the first frame alone.

With Griffin on the bench, though, the Suns started to creep back into the game. Leandro Barbosa earned a promotion into the PHX rotation with Jared Dudley sidelined, and promptly scored four points to help cut LAC’s lead to seven at 45-38 about halfway through the frame.

Austin Rivers got off to a ragged start in this game, missing each of his first three shots to go along with two fouls. He started the game wearing the Harden 1s, but apparently changed between the first and second quarter. Clearly, we can chalk his struggles up to his uncertain footwear situation.

This was looking like an easy win for the Clips with the starters on the floor, but the bench apparently decided against holding up their end of the deal. The offense was looking stagnant despite solid shooting, and Phoenix’s bench actually gave them a spark.

Austin quickly snapped out of his snooze to start the game. He hit a nice driving layup before picking Brandon Knight’s pocket and finishing the break with an easy two-handed dunk just seconds later.

Doc Rivers put Griffin, Jordan and Redick back in the game just under the four minute mark. Jamal Crawford was the lone bench cog to remain on the floor, and his solid form continued in the first half. A tip-back of a Griffin miss gave him 10 points on the night on surprisingly efficient 5-7 shooting. He then followed that up with a pull-up airball on the next possession. So, we ran the gamut on Crawford’s give-and-take nature on offense in the span of two trips down the floor, which must be a new record.

LAC reasserted themselves as the superior side over the first half of the third. Things were thrown out of wack for the Clippers, however, when DeAndre Jordan was convicted of committing a flagrant-two foul on a drive to the bucket by Marquese Chriss. The foul was clearly a flagrant-one at minimum, but the flagrant-two ejection felt rather excessive. Regardless, the Clippers would have to survive the final quarter-and-a-half without their rim protector.

That play seemed to give the Suns something of a spark, and a Griffin turnover followed by a fastbreak dunk from Devin Booker whittled L.A.’s lead to just two at 88-86 late in the third. Old friend Eric Bledsoe really came alive toward the end of the period, and a driving layup in the waning seconds gave him 30 points with 12 minutes still to play.

The Clips converted a grand total of two shots from the floor from the 4:52 mark (Jordan’s ejection) until the end of the period. In all, it was a 15-9 Suns run. Heading into the fourth, LAC led 92-88.

Bledsoe remained on the floor to start the fourth, and promptly waltzed to the rim for an easy layup to open the scoring. LAC rolled with the untraditional five of Mo Speights-Brandon Bass-Alan Anderson-Jamal Crawford-Ray Felton. Surprisingly, Bass was the one to take the reins offensively. The former LSU great scored eight consecutive points spanning the quarter break to help give the Clips a bit of a cushion at 98-93.

This Clips lineup unsurprisingly struggled to generate anything close to a rhythm on offense. A couple of the Bass buckets were bailouts at the end of the shot clock, the other possessions resulted in low quality looks for Crawford and Speights. However, future Hall-of-Famer Ray Felton drove to the bucket and scored a quick two to enact Lawler’s Law with about seven left to play.

Mercifully, with the Clips’ offense on life support, Griffin returned to the game with 6:48 left.

Griffin took a flagrant-one foul after a (light) shove from Tyson Chandler and scarily went flying into the seats underneath the basket. He took a minute to come back to the floor, but fortunately seemed to take a shot to the family jewels rather than sustain a serious injury. Phew!

A three-point play from Bledsoe on the other end closed the gap to just three again before Redick banked a miraculous triple on the other end to double the Clipper advantage.

Felton, who quietly played an excellent offensive game, knocked down back-to-back shots that put the game on ice for L.A.

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With the Warriors coming to STAPLES tomorrow night, this game was really a must-win for the Clippers. This was easily the best Blake Griffin game in several months, as he finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and five dimes. With Chris Paul out and D.J. ejected, the team needed all Griffin could give them, particularly on the offensive end.

The Suns can be plucky at times and have already toppled several of the league’s elite clubs on the season, so this was by no means a cakewalk.

Eric Bledsoe is an absolute terror, and it’s great to see him healthy and playing the best basketball of his career. This was his second 40-point game in the last six games, which is nuts. It’s just a shame the Suns are so obscure.

Beating the Dubs at home tomorrow would be nice, but it would probably be in the Clippers’ best long-term interests to just punt on the game and rest Griffin tomorrow. Having him around in April is far more important than playing him big minutes on a back-to-back in early February. Resting star players is never an easy sell in a home game, but priorities are priorities.