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Clippers Beat Suns 128-117 in Game of Massive Swings

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This was a weird one. The Clippers led large, the Suns came back, and then the whole game devolved into a free throw shooting contest.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary:

This was one of the oddest games of the season thus far. The Clippers started out the game red hot, while the Suns looked like the most incompetent team in professional basketball. The good guys were up 17-0 in just four minutes, and the lead kept growing and growing even once the Suns got on the board. A slight hiccup in the late 1st and early 2nd quarters shrunk the lead a bit, but a ridiculous 2nd quarter by Lou Williams (23 points) got them right back on track. The Clippers led 79-50 at halftime, and the game appeared to be over.

The Suns had other ideas, and slowly chipped away at the lead over the course of the next two quarters. Now it was the Clippers’ turn to bungle offensive possessions and lose track of their men defensively, as they let the Suns back into the game. The Clippers also began to rack up fouls, sending the Suns to the line over and over again. The lead shrank to as little as 10 when the Suns began to hack-a-DJ in the waning minutes of the 4th quarter. As usual, this tactic failed to pay off—while DJ was nowhere near as good as he was against the Warriors, he still shot a perfectly respectable (for him) 5-8, and the trips to the line upset the Suns’ rhythm. Meanwhile, the Suns own missed free throws cost them dearly (their starting center, Alex Len, was 0-7), and the Clippers got just enough buckets to pull them through.

Notes:

  • Magnificent Lou and Tobias: Really, the Clippers were carried by these two almost the whole night. Harris got things going in the 1st quarter, Lou continued in the 2nd, and both made plays the rest of the game to see the Clippers to a victory. Harris finished with 30 points on 15 shots, while Lou had 35 on 20. Harris also chipped in 12 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks, putting together his best game as a Clipper, and quite possibly the finest of his entire career. Lou did have 6 turnovers, but he also made some fantastic passes, particularly to Montrezl Harrell, and was a calming force throughout. Brilliant performances by these two.
  • Sign Tyrone: I’m going to keep saying it until the Clippers do it—Tyrone Wallace has to be locked up to a real NBA contract, preferably for multiple years. He can’t shoot, and his handles aren’t quite as good as they might be. But he’s only 23 years old, and is clearly an NBA rotation player right now, with potential for much more. His defense is sound, he makes good plays with the basketball, and his ability to score around the rim is phenomenal. He deserves to be a key part of the Clippers’ rotation for the rest of the season.
  • Milos Struggling: A night after getting exposed against the Warriors, Milos had another dud, this time versus a very bad Suns team. He scored only 3 points on 1-4 shooting, had 4 turnovers to 2 assists, and was a revolving door on defense. If he’s not hitting shots, it’s really tough to play him big minutes, even against bad teams. His lack of defense is especially glaring next to Lou Williams, who is no stopper on that end himself, but who looks like Andre Roberson compared to Milos. When Milos gets minutes, he should get them next to Wallace, or Austin Rivers, or Avery Bradley (when healthy). He needs a sturdy defensive presence besides him on the court, and Lou just doesn’t provide that.
  • Turmoil in the NBA: There was some good news and bad news for the Clippers regarding the rest of the NBA scores tonight. On the plus side, the Pistons lost again, while the Hornets, Bucks, and Pacers won. The worse Detroit gets, and the lower they sink in the East, the better their pick will be for the Clippers. It’s unlikely that it gets to the protected range (1-4), but the Pistons might be somewhere in the 10-12 range, which would still be a great pick. In the West, the Timberwolves, Jazz, and Spurs lost (good), but the Pelicans, Nuggets, and Blazers won (bad). This serves to congeal the playoff race even further: the Clippers are now just one loss behind the Wolves (who may have lost Jimmy Butler tonight, but let’s hope not) for the 4th seed. 4th!!!!! The Spurs are flailing at 3rd, and it looks like Kawhi Leonard won’t return this season. Basically, the West is in complete chaos right now outside of the Warriors and Rockets, and the Clippers need to take advantage.
  • Road Ahead: The Clippers next game is on Tuesday in Denver against the Nuggets, an absolutely pivotal game in the playoff race. The Nuggets are playing well right now, and it would be great if the Clippers had one or both of Bradley and Gallinari available for that game. The next day, the Clippers will return home to face the surging Rockets, though the excitement of that event is much lower with Blake Griffin gone. Those should both be superb games, however, and the Clippers will need to be very sharp to win them.