What a game. The Suns ended up on the wrong side of the final score as Blake Griffin somehow managed to bounce in a buzzer beating three pointer in overtime, but this was the most exciting game of their season despite the heartbreaking finish.
Eric Bledsoe hit a three to kick things off... that already gave him more points than in his last game against the Clippers. Goran Dragic and Bledsoe were doing the heavy lifting on offense in the early going and combined to score 15 of the Suns' first 17 points, but miscues (sloppy passing, fouling three point shooters) were keeping the Clippers close. Bledsoe may have been pushing against his former team, committing a couple bad turnovers early.
Dragic made a driving, behind the back circus move which led to an easy layup to put the Suns up 17-11, but just a minute later another bad pass coming out of a timeout led to a fastbreak dunk for DeAndre Jordan to tie the score at 17.
The first technical of the game was called on Dragic with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter. It seemed pretty questionable to me. Less than a minute later Blake Griffin and Alex Len got tangled up under the Suns' basket. There's no love lost between these teams. In the midst of the escalating chippy play Los Angeles suddenly reeled off a 15-2 run to surge ahead 26-19.
Gerald Green ended the rally with a triple and Dragic capped off the quarter with another tortuous trip through traffic and a contorted scoop shot to tie the game just before the buzzer sounded. Goran's 12 points buoyed the Suns, but six costly turnovers kept the game tight.
Score: Suns 28, Clippers 28
Before you could blink Green hit his second three of the game to start the second quarter. Anthony Tolliver followed suit and the Suns were off to a 7-10 start from long distance. A nice sequence of fast paced basketball included an accidental bank shot by ex-Sun and famously failed experiment Hedo Turkoglu and a menacing dunk by the ever evolving Alex Len courtesy of a wrap around pass by Bledsoe.
For the second time in the first half the Suns fouled J.J. Redick shooting a three and he made all three free throws to give the Clippers a 45-40 lead. Mental lapses were undermining a very spirited effort by the Suns. Dragic hit a three, his first points of the second quarter, with just under three minutes remaining to get the Suns back within a point (51-50), but on the ensuing possession Jordan's second wide open dunk in the last three trips down the court put the Clippers back up by three.
The second technical of the game was charged to Blake Griffin with 2:14 left in the quarter. This one seemed well deserved. Nobody in the league is fouled more than Blake Griffin... according to Blake Griffin.
Bledsoe nailed a couple free throws with just over a second left that gave the Suns a 57-56 edge. Just when it looked like the Suns were going to take the lead into halftime Eric fouled Jared Cunningham on the other end. Of course he was shooting a three. Of course he made it. Of course he converted the four point play. Committing three fouls on three point shots in one half has to carry some kind of dubious distinction with it.
That pretty much summed up the first half, too. The Suns were scrappy and engaged, but couldn't get out of their own way enough to build up a lead. Bledsoe was the poster boy with 12 points, nine assists, four turnovers and three fouls. Griffin led the way for the bad guys with an efficient 17 points as the Suns' physical defense did little to deter him.
Score: Clippers 60, Suns 57
There was a lot of complaining going on in this game... on both sides of the ball. Miles Plumlee went from invisible in the first half to atrocious at the beginning of the third quarter as he lost track of Jordan on defense, leading to an alley-oop dunk, then committed an offensive foul setting a pick on the Suns' next offensive trip. Miles was exiled to the bench and the Clippers had pulled ahead 70-63. Emotionally scarring memories of the Suns' last third quarter debacle at the STAPLES Center began to plague my outlook.
One failed offensive set included Dragic kicking the ball around before falling down and then Len whiffing on a dunk after he managed to come up with the loose ball. Despite their best efforts, though, the Suns were still managing to hang on in the game, trailing 73-67 halfway through the quarter.
After a dunk by Griffin that was an affront to the fundamental law of gravity, Markieff Morris responded from long distance at the other end. It would be Kieff's last shot of the quarter, though, as two quick, cheap fouls sent him to the bench with four. The Suns were holding on for dear life and Griffin was imposing his will on the game with 11 points in the quarter and 28 for the game.
Aside from his blooper reel dunk, Alex Len was doing work for the Suns. The big man had seven in the quarter for the Suns, including five late to help keep Phoenix within striking distance. He was even switching between guarding Jordan and Griffin. He wasn't necessarily stopping either of them, but it was hard not to be impressed with the young man's effort and overall play. Len finished the quarter with 14 points and seven boards.
The third quarter didn't follow the meltdown script from the previous meeting between these teams, but the Suns had their work cut out for them.
Score: Clippers 89, Suns 80
Green became the second Suns' reserve in double digits at the beginning of the fourth quarter as his three point play cut the lead to 89-85. The Suns appeared to be here to stay.
The first ejection of the game came with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter. Goodbye Jamal Crawford. Doc Rivers joined in the fun, too. You have a technical foul... and you have a technical foul... and you have a technical foul. The Clippers were being very magnanimous in their efforts to gift the Suns free throws. Crawford's ejection was in conjunction with what looked like a clear path foul for Bledsoe, but the Suns had to settle for just two free throws and the ball. A six point flurry by Bledsoe, though, had pulled the Suns within one at 94-93.
Marcus Morris put the Suns back ahead at 96-94 after a convenient shot clock malfunction delayed the game for several minutes during a surge of Phoenix momentum. Marcus tripled again and Plumlee scored his first points of the game and the Suns were suddenly up by five (101-96), outscoring the Clippers 21-7 in the period.
The Clippers' rebuttal to the Suns' rally was pounding the ball to Griffin inside. He hit four straight free throws then Chris Paul added two more to put LA back up 104-103. The Suns squandered a great opportunity in this stretch when Len missed a bunny at the rim off a beautiful feed from Green.
Markieff and Len were both playing with five fouls for the Suns down the stretch. Then only Markieff was as Len was charged for his sixth foul against... guess who - Blake Griffin. After another foul on P.J. Tucker Griffin was 15-17 from the line (with 38 points total) and the Clippers had scored 10 of their last 12 points on free throws.
Great ball movement by the Suns resulted in an open look for Bledsoe from three and the Suns closed within one (110-109). Paul countered with a jump shot on the other end. Markieff hit a tough shot in the lane after Bledsoe got the Suns the ball with his tenth rebound of the game, giving Eric his first career triple double.
An away from the ball foul on everybody's favorite scumbag Matt Barnes allowed Green to tie the game at 112 with :27 left while the Suns retained possession. Bledsoe missed a good look from three at the top of the key and LA got the ball back after it went out of bounds off of Green. A foul could have probably been called on Chris Paul.
Then Eric Bledsoe took Chris Paul's lunch money with a massive rejection at the buzzer that forced overtime. Holy blocked shot.
Score: Suns 112, Clippers 112
Gerald Green jumped center court with DeAndre Jordan to start overtime.
Tucker drew first blood with a two from the corner, but Griffin responded with four points sandwiched around an offensive foul on Tucker induced by a Griffin flop. Tucker and Griffin were really talking and getting after each other.
Markieff hit a three with 1:57 left to put the Suns back up 117-116. After the teams traded fruitless possessions Kieff was open in the corner again. Goran found him... and he drilled it again! The Suns were up by four with just :43 remaining in OT.
Tucker forced Griffin to miss a tough shot and then snared the rebound, but was tied up by Barnes. Tucker had a quiet line for the game, but he had his fingerprints all over the extra session. Redick ended up with the ball after it was tipped and laid it in to cut the Suns' lead to 120-118.
A bad miss by the Suns was rebounded by Green, but resulted in a shot clock violation because the ball never touched the rim. LA got the ball back with 5.6 seconds left, down by two.
The Suns used a foul and the Clippers inbounded again with 2.6 seconds left.
Then Blake Griffin heaved up a three pointer as time expired. It hit the front of the rim, bounced up a few feet into the air... and somehow managed to go in.
Final Score: Clippers 121, Suns 120
Player of the Game:
Eric Bledsoe. Eric really cleaned up his game after a spectacular but uneven first half. He recorded his first career triple double with 27 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. He also chipped in two steals and two blocks, including one against Chris Paul at the end of regulation that sent the game to overtime.
In general, Bledsoe was quite a bit better than when he scored one point against the Clippers last time and since this recap is going up after 12:01 AM December 9th... Happy Birthday Eric.
Markieff Morris bounced back from an abhorrent 2-14 shooting effort against the Houston Rockets and a slow start against the Clippers and made huge plays for the Suns down the stretch. His two three pointers in overtime very nearly sealed the game for Phoenix and he managed to play through the fourth quarter and overtime with five fouls. Kieff finished with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Alex Len was the best center for the Suns again tonight. He continues to flash potential and it seems inevitable that he will supplant Plumlee from the starting position at some point this season. Alex finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Technical Difficulties. Difficulties with the broadcast. Difficulties with the shot clock. These things detracted from a very entertaining game, but still couldn't manage to spoil it. Luckily, the signal drop that froze the broadcast several times in the first half didn't rear its ugly head during an exhilarating fourth quarter and overtime.
The Suns traded out defenders on Blake Griffin all night and used up a slew of fouls (five for Markieff, five for Tucker and six for Len), but Griffin still managed to score a season high 45 points, most in the NBA by any player this season. It wasn't from a lack of effort by the Suns, he was just that good. Griffin was the Clippers catalyst all night and was ultimately and literally the difference in the game.
That damn bounce off the rim on Blake Griffin's three pointer. How the hell did that go in...
The Suns played a monster game and have nothing to be ashamed of, but that still only partly mollifies the sting of losing such an emotional contest in this fashion.
Hopefully there won't be a hangover tomorrow against the Miami Heat.
Thanks for giving us such an awesome game to watch Suns.
Screw you Blake Griffin.