The road to the playoffs continues to be a bumpy one for the Phoenix Suns.  Another day and another loss to a Pacific Division rival drops Phoenix to 36-27 and a full half-game behind Memphis for the 8th seed in the playoffs.  The Clippers advance to 45-20 with their eighth win in a row and a tie for third place in the Western Conference with the Houston Rockets.

Though Phoenix only lost by 7 points (112-105) and managed to cut the lead to 4 with 32.5 seconds left in the game, it wasn't ever really that close.  Phoenix trailed by double digits throughout the game.  In the first half, they seemed to be trying to out-suck themselves at both ends of the court, shooting 36.5% while allowing a generous 61.5% percentage to Los Angeles Clippers.

Phoenix  did their best to make this a game in the fourth quarter, but Blake Griffin put them in an early hole and they failed to get out of it.   The entire Suns team had only one more point that Griffin himself in the first quarter.  Blake played like a man possessed, scoring 37 points on 14-16 shooting before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Goran Dragi? was a non-factor in the first half as the Suns fell behind by 21, scoring only 3 points while picking up 3 fouls.  In the second half, he was THE factor for the Suns, scoring 20 points and nearly leading a most unlikely comeback.  He must have stolen Gerald Green's mojo.  After driving the Suns' offense to the tune of 13 first half points, he only scored 3 in the second half.  P.J. Tucker was the only Sun who played 4 solid quarters of basketball, notching his 9th double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) before getting ejected for scuffling with Griffin.

Phoenix gets a day to lick its back-to-back wounds before taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Phoenix on Wednesday.

First Half

Blake Griffin.  That's all you really need to know about the first quarter.  He scored 22 of LA's 34 points in the period.  The entire Suns lineup combined for 23.  Goran Dragi? and Channing Frye both saw limited minutes after picking up 2 fouls apiece.

The foul trouble continued in the second quarter with Dragi? picking up his 3rd foul 2minutes in.  Archie Goodwin was pressed into service.  Highlights did not ensue.  Ball control and defense continued to be an issue for Phoenix.  The rotations looked off and players were missing their assignments in transition as the Clippers extended their lead to 20.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, Blake Griffin did not take the rest of the game off after his first quarter pyrotechnics.  Nor did he show any mercy, scoring on 3 consecutive buckets.  Fortunately, Goran Dragi? realized the only way they could stop Blake Griffin was to get him off the court by drawing Griffin's 3rd personal, thereby limiting him to only 29 first half points.

The box score says the Suns only had 9 first half turnovers, but it felt like 20.  Gerald Green lead Phoenix with 13 points at the break.  Going into halftime, the Clippers lead Phoenix 62-45 in points and 61.5-36.4 in shooting percentage.

Second Half

OMG.  So much Blake Griffin.  Say what you will about Channing Frye's defense, but the only thing that seemed like it might work defensively would have been sealing Blake Griffin in concrete 100 feet below the surface of the earth.  And even then he would have found a way to hit a 20 footer.  The hot shooting was contagious as the Clips shot 60% for the quarter.  Griffin would finish the quarter with 8 more points to bring his total to 37.

After going without a field goal in the first half, Goran Dragi? did what he could to #ignitetheoffense early in the half, but he was not getting much help.  With 6 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, LA had built up a 25 point lead with no signs of slowing down.  Markieff Morris hit a 3 pointer and Blake Griffin missed his 2nd shot of the game (he missed it through no fault of the Suns' defense) which allowed a Dragi? lay-up and free throw to cut the lead to 19.

Given the way the first half had gone, I really thought that was as close as Phoenix would get.  And then wouldn't you know it, a couple of stops (and Blake Griffin's 4th foul!) later, the Suns managed to cut the lead to 11.  Dragi? had 12 points and Tucker had 8 to lead the rally.  A Matt Barnes 3-pointer ended the quarter with Phoenix trailing 90-76.

The 4th quarter started the same as the 3rd with the Suns giving ground and watching LA inflate their cushion to 21.  And well, we can talk about how the Suns cut the lead down to 10, but the real story of the 4th quarter was THE ALTERCATION.  Blake Griffin and P.J. Tucker were battling in the paint when they both went down.  It looked like Griffin had pushed/fallen on top of Tucker.  Tucker hit Griffin in the face and earned himself a loose ball foul and ejection.  I thought Griffin should have been T'ed up at least, and it seemed like he initiated the contact that caused them to go to the ground in the first place.  Them's the breaks.

To everyone's surprise, 2 minutes later Blake Griffin would foul out on what I can only call a stellar charge taken by Markieff Morris.  Two Dragi? lay-ups later, the Suns only trailed by 6 points with 2:20 remaining.  Alas, the best the Suns could do was get within 4 points.  After that it was fouls and free throws and Clippers hung on to win the game 112-105.

Random Thoughts

* I'm good with P.J. Tucker never leading another fastbreak again this season.  That said, he is going to get PAID next season.  I hope Phoenix finds a way to keep him.

* Speaking of fast breaks, the Clippers pulled the rare feat of running the Suns out of the gym, outscoring Phoenix 26-21 in fast-break points

* Blake Griffin is a for-real superstar.  No longer does he rely on dunks and athleticism alone to get his points.  He was hitting from everywhere regardless of whether or not there was a hand in his face or he was wide open.

* Alex Len and Archie Goodwin continue to demonstrate why their minutes are limited.  I have no doubt they will blossom into excellent players, but they are still not quite ready for prime time.

* Danny Granger looks like he was a very good pick-up for the Clippers.

* I predicted a 112-107 loss.  Much closer with this than I was with the rest of the Suns' season.

P.J. Tucker earned a personal, technical and ejection Monday in the Phoenix Suns’ 112-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. In the second half, Griffin went after an offensive rebound and took...

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Time: 7:30 p.m. MST TV: FSA The Phoenix Suns take on the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night for the second time this week, and they do so on the back end of a back-to-back. With the Dallas Mavericks...

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Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how The Grand Budapest Hotel was a little disappointing. It's all fair game here. Get crazy, y'all.

Win, lose, or draw the Suns have brought excitement back to their brand and a team that has grown exponentially brings plenty of flair to their playoff push.

I'm writing this after getting a chance to sleep off the Suns 113-107 loss to the Golden St. Warriors. Phoenix seemed to be in control of the game before they lost traction by giving up a pesky little 25-5 run to close the third quarter. They still made it interesting at the end (sort of) and I wasn't too upset by the blown opportunity. Even the Suns losses these days (except for that grating affair with the Jazz) are pretty fun to watch.

The Suns have 20 games left and have just backed themselves out of the top eight in the Western Conference by virtue of a Memphis Grizzlies' owned tiebreaker. Phoenix gets a chance to play meaningful basketball the rest of the season barring an implosion. Does grinding down the stretch trying to sneak into the backdoor of the playoffs sound familiar? A couple of recent iterations of this team were in a similar situation, but fell just short of the opportunity to get bludgeoned in the first round and won a late lottery pick as a consolation prize.

Call this a revisionist history, but this season feels way different. There's a big difference between growing pains and dying breaths. I'm enjoying experiencing the former.

In a span of four games Goran Dragic and Gerald Green joined a group of players that have scored 40 points in a game this season that includes Kevin Durant (10), Carmelo Anthony (5), Kevin Love (4), LeBron James (2), Blake Griffin (2), Kyrie Irving (2), Stephen Curry (2), Terrence Ross, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden, Arron Afflalo, Paul George, Marcus Thornton, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Trevor Ariza, Jodie Meeks, Al Jefferson and Dirk Nowitzki.

The dynamic duo also joins three other sets of teammates (on the Clippers, Raptors and Trail Blazers) that have accomplished the feat. The parallel between these four teams? They all have relatively young cores and appear to be on the good side of their apogees. The type of explosive and multifaceted scoring it takes to drop 40 has been conspicuously absent from the melange of mediocre (at best) talent the Suns have marched onto the court the last three seasons.

In the 2012-13 season the Suns only had a player score 30 or more points four times. The season before that it was two. This season it has already happened 13 times courtesy of Goran (8), Green (4) and Channing Frye (1). The paucity of scoring outbursts the previous two seasons was not only a conviction of the team's lack of talent, but it's overall lack of appeal. They were boring even before they were really bad.

Now the team has a threat to go for 30 on any given night. Markieff appears poised to join this group any day. I've actually been expecting him to hit the mark for some time now. To me it's quite refreshing going into games thinking, "Which Sun/s will go off tonight?" instead of, "Which scrub is poised to have a career night against us?"

This trend of standout performances comes without Eric Bledsoe, whose season high is 28, even in the discussion. With the impending return of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse (Bledsoe) the Suns have gone from a team with no true "go to" scorer to a team that can field a lineup full of guys that I (mostly) trust with the ball in late game situations.

Dragic, Green and Markieff Morris have emerged as the core of the team in Bledsoe's absence. They have become the team's de facto offensive constant, emotional sustenance and in game leadership. The trio has recently posted point totals of 79 against the Rockets, 70 against the Pelicans, 73 against the Hawks and 87 against the Thunder. That's 70 or more points in four of the last eight games.

Green has scored in double figures in 14 straight games and is averaging 23 points per game since the All-Star break. Markieff has become the stabilizing force off the bench, with consistency that has led to double digit scoring in 23 of his last 25 games. He has topped 20 in five of his last nine. Goran broke his career high for points in a game three times in the month of February.

Goran's name has been floated in MVP discussions and as a potential candidate for All-NBA teams and most improved player. Markieff should be right near the top of a very short list of candidates for the Sixth Man award. I've heard accolades float around during broadcasts and read about them as they rattled around the box of everything on various basketball sites. But what about Green? I would aver that the Suns have three of the most improved players in the league on the same roster. Do you know who you would even vote for on this team?

I can only hope that the recent games against the Rockets, Thunder and Warriors are a harbinger of how captivating a first round playoff series might be. In lots of cases a seventh or eighth seed is just an annoying formality for a top seed on their way to the second round (see this year's Eastern Conference), but I really hope the Suns can cling to one of the final playoff berths because I don't see that being the case.

Sure, finishing ninth would put a minor blemish on all the positives from this season, but just the selfish angle of wanting to watch primo quality basketball does it for me. Who wouldn't want to get a crack at the Thunder after watching the Suns wild 128-122 triumph. That was just plain fun to watch. Not just because the Suns won, or that I think it means the Suns could upset the Thunder in a seven game series, but because that was one hell of a well played basketball game by both teams. It was a case where both teams played well enough to win. Even the refs called a clean game.

And there was Green.

We've all seen Green enter heat check mode this season, but the OKC game gave him a chance to springboard to the national stage. Not only was Green (41 points, eight threes) matching Westbrook's production (36 points, nine rebounds, nine assists), but he was mirroring Westbrook's white hot intensity.

I'm all about that kind of back and forth. I'm a huge fan of watching players who can channel their energy into a weapon to destroy their opponents. Charles Barkley and Amar'e Stoudemire, probably my two favorite Suns, were this way. But these types of players can also struggle with this trait. Instead of playing with emotion, their emotions play with them.

Green has gone through a palingenesis in this aspect, too. At the beginning of the season he seemed more tentative, if not timorous, to just unbottle his inner rage. To be arrogant... in a good way. Arrogant - characterized by a sense of superiority. Call it swagger if you're more comfortable with that term. But I feel teams need a guy or two that is/are dripping with confidence. The kind that leads to an internal thought process such as...

"I'm better than you and I'm going to go out there and show you that I'm better than you and let you know about while I'm doing it right in front of everyone."

Green's confidence had not produced the results it was supposed to throughout his career. Maybe a situation where he just knew that he could do it, but for some reason he just couldn't do it. Well, now he's doing it and it's allowing him to play with unrestrained emotion. Let's face it, it's hard to play with passion when you're not playing up to your ability. Instead, it manifests as frustration.

There's a certain green monster (the Hulk) that tends to break out into fits of blind, ass-stomping rage when people piss him off. He's been known to say, "You won't like me when I'm angry."

Well, I like our green monster when he's angry.  He's been converting that choleric streak into high level production. And when that scowl comes across Green's face these days it seems more likely that he's about to go nuclear on team X than that he's lambasting himself over a mistake he just made.

And to me, Green, maybe more so than any other player, epitomizes the Suns' reversal of fortune. He runs the break. He dunks like a man possessed. He can light it up at the flip of a switch. He is exciting to watch. He came out of nowhere. He's having fun. He's playing team basketball.

So while the Suns take on the Clippers tonight I'll obviously be hoping for a win, but I'll also be waiting to see who goes off tonight. Maybe Kieff will go for 30 and 10... And going into it I'll be expecting to watch a great game of basketball.

Which is a world away from just hoping to not get embarrassed like last season.

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