The Phoenix Suns, down two starters, fought a tough game but came up short to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Los Angeles Clippers started the game on a 16-7 tear, but then the Phoenix Suns roared back to an 11-point halftime lead.
The Clippers dominated the third quarter and early 4th to take a 15-point lead (a 26-point swing), but then the Suns fought back to a 4-point deficit.
Ultimately, the Suns couldn't make enough shots to finish the comeback.
The Clippers won 104-96.
The Los Angeles Clippers came back to life on the unconscious shooting of Matt Barnes - made 12 of his first 13 jumpers - and Darren Collison.
After a really slow start to the game, including only 7 points in the first 6 minutes, the Suns rolled out to a 55-44 halftime lead thanks to solid defense and rebounding - something that was missing in the past week and a half.
The Clippers appeared to be in a funk the entire half, allowing themselves to settle for midrange jumpers as the Suns packed the paint and denied back door cuts to the rim. The Suns first run occurred when the Clippers tried to play new acquisitions Danny Granger and Glen Davis together in the second unit, along with former Suns Jared Dudley and Hedo Turkoglu. But the Suns biggest run occurred against the Clippers starters to pull to a 55-44 halftime lead.
But then Matt Barnes happened. As the Clippers tried to stay in a funk, Barnes personally pulled them out of it. He scored on 6 straight jumpers (three of them 3-ptrs) for 16 points as the Clippers went on to make 13 of their last 16 shots to take an 8-point lead into the 4th.
The Suns were already without starters Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee (knee strain). Then Leandro Barbosa went down with a broken left wrist.
But the Suns were beaten on jumpers. Beaten over the head, in that third quarter. By former Sun Matt Barnes, no less. The Clippers made 15-20 shots in the third, then started the 4th with 4 of 5 makes while the Suns scored only 2 points - to give the Clips a 15-point lead before the Suns could wake up. The Suns went 11-30 in the same time span, unable to get out of their own way most of the time.
The Clippers can thank Darren Collison (18 points) and Matt Barnes (28 points) for keeping them alive long enough to settle into taking a lead.
The Suns wouldn't go away though. They roared back to within 90-86 and then 97-94, but couldn't pull out the game. The Suns just couldn't make enough shots.
The final minute will make DeAndre Jordan's defensive highlight reel, with blocks, rebounds and deterrants galore.
Credit this game to Matt Barnes, who scored 16 points in the first few minutes of the third to bring Clippers back, and Darren Collison (18 points) when the Clippers needed any kind of boost to stay alive in the first 2.5 quarters. Without them, it's a big Suns lead.
The Suns came out wound up tight, unable to make a shot. But at least they played some D, inducing the Clippers into a lot of midrange shots. Alex Len started the game in place of Miles Plumlee (knee strain), and quickly grabbed two rebounds and scored on a putback. But then he missed three shots and picked up a foul before taking a seat. The Suns replacements at center weren't much better, with Channing Frye and Markieff Morris picking up 2 fouls apiece before making as many shots.
After allowing the Clips to take a 15-6 lead despite shooting under 40%, the Suns went on a run and eventually took a 25-24 lead after one.
The Suns played the second quarter hard, and continued to lead. They pulled out to an 11-point halftime lead on the back of strong defense and opportunistic scoring. Suns lead 55-44 at half.
I don't think the Clippers know what hit them. They seem in a funk. At halftime, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined for just 14 points (5-16 from field), 8 assists and 6 rebounds. The Suns induced them to take most of those shots from midrange, which is a 39% shot in the NBA.
Matt Barnes single-handedly dragged the Clippers back into the game by making his first 6 second-half shots - three of them three-pointers - as the Suns apparently decided that they would be okay with Barnes deciding the outcome of this game. Barnes started 11-12 from the field. All on long jumpers.