Clippers come out the gate roaring and ready to go. Perhaps this being the latter half of a tough back-to-back actually worked on in Los Angeles’ favor, as they were able to ride the momentum from last night’s win to start this game with energy. One subtly impressive stat: the Clippers, who currently ranked in the bottom three teams in terms of rebounding percentage, out-rebounded the Suns, who currently sit in the top 10, in the first quarter.
Marcus Morris Sr. remained unfazed by the defense, tonight. Scoring or assisting in all 12 of the Clippers’ points in the first half of the second quarter, Morris Sr. did what he does best: take and make tough shots. And with a clutch three that cut a Phoenix lead to just two, with three minutes to go in the game, the Clippers needed every one of those makes.
Despite all that, the Clippers went into the half, 53-47.
The Chris Paul effect was on full display, however. With a series of prime connections with Deandre Ayton, he led the Suns to a quick 12-5 run. His orchestration of the offense and Mikal Bridges’ two-way potency in the third quarter proved to be the Clippers’ greatest challenges tonight. Bridges and a hot streak from Devin Booker led the Suns to another run, this time a 15-2 one, in the third.
In a game that felt like a shootout, the winner was actually determined on the defensive end. Both teams had players going, and, given opportunities, showed their abilities to capitalize and ignite quick runs. The team who strung together more defensive stops could swing the momentum in their favor, and the team that allowed more defensive holes lost it.
The Suns are 35-0 when leading through the third quarter. Heading into the fourth, they led 81-72. The Suns, with a stifling defense and a clutch lead point guard, are a tough tough team in the clutch. Despite ferocious play by the Clippers, giving them the lead with less than six minutes to go, the Paul and the Suns showed just why that is.
Rebounding, besides the aforementioned first quarter, also killed the Clippers. Numerous empty Phoenix possessions were extended by the Suns offensive rebounding.
In true Clippers fashion, they made Phoenix work for all 48 minutes tonight. The best team in the league won tonight, but by God did they have to earn it.
The Clippers look to get back in the win column in their last game before the all-star break. Thursday night against Houston.