Suns Strokes: Suns fight hard but Clippers pull away in fourth quarter
PHOENIX — To begin with, here are the Phoenix Suns who did not play: Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, Alex Len, Elfrid Payton and T.J. Warren.
That’s four starters and a backup center; all of whom were ruled out before tip-off.
After tip-off, well, it was a predictable outcome.
The Suns dropped their 13th straight, tying the franchise mark for most consecutive losses in a single season, and 12th in a row at home, a 111-99 to the Los Angeles Clippers in front of an announced crowd of 17,005 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Overall, the Suns (19-57) have lost 28 of 30 since Jan. 22.
Give the Suns credit, though. It was a three-point game entering the fourth quarter, when the Clippers scored the first 18 points and won the period, 26-17.
With a depleted roster, interim head coach Jay Triano was forced to use a number of different combinations including twice having three players who had spent time in the G League this season on the floor at the same time.
Tyler Ulis set a season-high in scoring for the second straight game. He had 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Josh Jackson added 18 and Marquese Chriss recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds plus three steals, continuing his recent run of good play. It was his second double-double in four games.
Off the bench, Shaquille Harrison went for 17, setting a new season-high.
Those four, as well as Troy Daniels (15 points), were no match, however, for the Clippers (41-34). They won their second game in as many nights and third straight overall.
Tobias Harris led six players in double figures. He had a game-high 27 points, shooting 10-of-16 from the field. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 15 rebounds.
The win completed the season-series sweep for the Clippers, who have now won the last eight meetings in the series.
Four minutes into the game and all five Suns starters had scored. It was one of the team’s better shooting quarters in recent memory. They made 14-of-21 shots from the field, including 3-of-8 from 3-point range, and led 32-27. Jackson and Ulis each had nine points with Ulis capping the period with a 30-foot running 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.
Twice in the first half, Ulis hit 3-pointers from 30 feet out. He had 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 17 minutes through the first two quarters, which extended his streak of scoring in double figures to a season-long four straight games. Ulis finished with 23 points. Over these four games, Ulis is averaging 16.8 points on 52.8 percent shooting plus 5.3 assists.
A milestone reached. At the 1:14 mark of the first quarter, Jared Dudley checked into the game. It was his 465th career appearance in a Suns uniform, which tied Ring of Honor member Paul Westphal for 14th most in franchise history. Dudley did not score in his 5-plus minutes but he did have two rebounds and one assist.
Of the Clippers’ 27 first-quarter points, Jordan had a hand in just over half, 14. He scored seven on 2-of-4 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from the foul line. And then his three assists led to seven points. In addition, Jordan grabbed four rebounds in nine minutes. His assists and rebounds were team-highs, while Harris’ 10 points (4-of-6 FG) paced the visitors. By the way, Jordan’s three assists were halfway to a season-best.
After the first quarter, the Suns’ shooting cooled off. They missed 10 of their first 12 shot attempts to begin the second quarter, and with two minutes to play before halftime they were just 6-of-23. Even worse, they turned the ball four times, three over a four-possession stretch; two of which belonged to Jackson. They closed the period making four straight field goal attempts — two by Alec Peters — and went into the locker room trailing 58-56.
Welcome to the Harris Show, otherwise known as the third quarter. He more than doubled his first-half output with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, and 2-of-2 shooting from the foul line. His final points, a 23-foot 3-pointer, put the Clippers ahead 83-76 at the 1:58 mark. Through three quarters, Harris had scored a game-high 27 (10-of-16 FG) in a little more than 30 minutes of action.
It was 85-82 entering the fourth quarter when the Clippers opened the final period on an 18-0 run to take a 103-82 lead at the 6:52 mark. It wasn’t until the 6:23 mark in which the Suns finally got on the scoreboard. Chriss dunked home an alley-oop pass from Ulis. By the way, of those 18 Clippers points, six belonged to Austin Rivers and all of them were off layups. He finished the game with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and eight assists.
STAT OF THE GAME part I
30: The Suns scored a season-high 30 points off 21 Clippers turnovers.
STAT OF THE GAME, part II
66-42: The Suns were outscored in the paint by 24 points.
HE SAID IT, part I
“I told them before the game this was a business trip,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “They’re sitting out so many guys and obviously we, we don’t even sit ours out. They’re just hurt. But at the end of the day, that’s just on us to win and we have to figure it out and you have to do it with your defense and I thought we finally did it in the fourth quarter.”
HE SAID IT, part II
“They’re a good young team,” Jordan said. “They have a lot of offensive firepower. They got some bigs that are skilled. Their best player was out tonight so they’ve got a lot of talent. They’re going to be good and they’re always a challenge.”
Jackson has scored 15-plus points in a career-long eight consecutive (six starts) games, averaging 20.4 points.
Chriss has scored 10-plus points in a career-long six consecutive games (four starts), averaging 12.3 points.
Daniels has scored 10-plus points in a career-long six consecutive games (all starts), averaging 16.8 points.
Harrison recorded his third career double-digit scoring game; he also tied a career-high of four steals.
Booker (sprained right hand) missed his sixth consecutive game, Warren (left knee inflammation) his fifth.
Len (sprained left ankle) now has missed seven games due to injury, Payton (left knee tendinopathy) one.
Chandler now has not played in eight consecutive games; he dressed but was a DNP-Coach’s decision.
The Suns started their 32nd different lineup, going with a five-man unit of Ulis-Daniels-Jackson-Bender-Chriss.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was at the game; he sat courtside with Suns owner Robert Sarver.
A road trip.
The Suns will play the Western Conference’s No. 1 and 2 teams, respectively, over a three-day stretch, beginning with a visit to Houston on Friday, March 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Then comes a matchup at Golden State on April 1.
The Rockets have won the first three meetings this season. Most recently, James Harden just missed a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while Chris Paul added 17 points and five assists in a 113-102 victory on Jan. 28.
Overall, the Suns have lost seven straight and 14 of the last 16 in the series.