The Suns maintain their lead over the Clippers in the Western Conference, with LA now two games behind Phoenix in 3rd place.
Kawhi Leonard was scratched pregame after some hope he could feature, so Ty Lue went with Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac in the Clippers starting five.
The teams were pretty even in the opening quarter, Phoenix leading the way but LA staying within touching distance as they eased into the game. The Suns pulled away a bit at the end of the 1st quarter, 39-31, but George had a terrific opening frame, scoring 15 points to pace the Clippers.
It was pretty similar in the 2nd quarter, the Suns keeping an edge and the Clippers trying to remain in a reasonable distance to set up a possible comeback. While the Clippers trimmed the lead to five points at one point, Phoenix were the better team and pulled ahead, wrapping up the 1st half with a 63-53 lead. George only had one point in the 2nd quarter, and Morris had 12 in the first half. Phoenix, meanwhile, had four players in double-digit points at the half (Mikal Bridges, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, Frank Kaminsky), so they were feeling it.
But the prevailing trend continued in the 3rd quarter, with LA narrowing the deficit and Phoenix on the edge of blowing it out, but the Clippers making up ground by the end of the 3rd quarter, the Suns leading 86-80.
And it continued once more in the 4th quarter, with the Suns fully controlling proceedings through, leading wire to wire in the end, although the Clippers nearly tied up the game midway through the quarter. But they didn’t have the magic to complete the rally and overturn the outcome, with Phoenix pulling ahead late and in hindsight, the game was always in the home team’s hands.
Truthfully this was a game for a full-strength Clippers side, and with the likes of Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka still out, the remaining team just couldn’t rally enough on the night. Having said that, George had a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but while five Clippers were ultimately in double figures in points in this game, there wasn’t a guy who got hot alongside George to put them over the top. Live and learn with it being the regular season, still.
The Clippers get two full days to rest up and gear up for their next big game, Saturday against the Denver Nuggets. That’s going to be another cracker, with the Nuggets right behind LA in the standings and both teams eager for a good tuneup ahead of the playoffs. Should be a good one.