The Phoenix Suns on Wednesday found themselves with what may end up being a rare opportunity in their brutal closing stretch to the season.
Los Angeles’ Danny Granger was ruled out for Wednesday’s game at U.S. Airways Center with a strained hamstring, and star forward Blake Griffin was a gametime decision and clearly hobbled.
So, when the Suns took a 17-point lead with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, it looked like they were well on their way to taking advantage of that opportunity and keeping pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
But then the Clippers closed the third quarter on a 4-0 run and outscored Phoenix by 17 in the fourth on their way to a 112-108 win that dealt a damaging blow to the Suns’ playoff chances.
Here’s a closer look at the loss, by the numbers:
The Suns are now in a three-way tie for the Western Conference’s final two playoff spots with the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies. They are currently on the outside looking in because of the three-way tiebreaking procedure. Phoenix has a chance to control its own destiny in a head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas as one game remains between the two teams, but has already lost the season series to Memphis.
Eight Phoenix players finished in double-figure scoring, led by Marcus Morris’ 16 and 15 from both Gerald Green and Goran Dragic. Ish Smith was the lone Suns player to see the floor and not score in double figures — he went scoreless in four minutes.
The number 17 was not a good one for the Suns on Wednesday. They jumped out to a 17-point third-quarter lead, but then were outscored by 17 in the fourth quarter en route to a four-point loss.
Griffin, who clearly wasn’t at 100 percent, still managed to score a team-high 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting and grab six rebounds for the clippers.
A trio of former Suns combined for 33 points Wednesday — Matt Barnes led the way with 19 while Jared Dudley scored 12 and Hedo Turkoglu scored two.
Phoenix shot just 28.6 percent from 3-point range, and took a number of ill-advised shots from deep. Goran Dragic went 0-for-5 from behind the line while P.J. Tucker went 1-for-5 and Gerald Green 2-for-6. Channing Frye led the way on 4-of-8 shooting from deep.