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Suns Strokes: Suns easily top a depleted Clippers team

Phoenix Suns forward Jon Leuer (30) drives on Los Angeles Clippers guard Wesley Johnson during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

A win is a win no matter the circumstances.

So what if the opponent’s starting backcourt didn’t play or that it’s all-star forward’s night ended early after a pair of technical fouls.

The Phoenix Suns certainly aren’t going to apologize for their first victory over the L.A. Clippers in nearly two years, 118-104, in front of 17,204 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday.

Both Brandon Knight and T.J. Warren matched their career highs, while Eric Bledsoe fell an assist shy of a triple-double to help end the Suns two-game losing streak and an overall eight-game skid against the Clippers.

Wearing their gray sleeved jerseys and looking fresh after a three-day layoff, the Suns (4-4) opened a four-game homestand with four players scoring in double figures.

Knight had 37 on 14-of-22 shooting, Warren 18 on 7-of-10 shooting and Bledsoe made 9-of-13 from the field for 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds and nine assists.  He also had eight turnovers.

Jon Leuer finished with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for his third career double-double and first with the Suns.

Jamal Crawford scored 18 to lead the Clippers, who were without guards Chris Paul (groin strain) and J.J. Redick (back spasms) and then lost Blake Griffin after he was ejected late in the second quarter.

The Clippers (5-3) had also played the night before, losing in Dallas, and have now dropped four of their last five games.

THE GOOD

Bledsoe accounted for 21 of the Suns’ 30 first-quarter points.  He scored 10 and was responsible for 11 more with four assists, including setting up Knight, Leuer and Markieff Morris on 3-pointers.  His two made free throws at 1:29 gave the Suns their largest lead, 28-20.  Bledsoe also ended the quarter with team-highs in rebounds (three), steals (two) and unfortunately turnovers (three, the only ones committed by the Suns).

Triggered by Griffin’s second technical foul and subsequent ejection, the Suns scored nine unanswered points to take their largest lead of the half, 58-48 at the 31.5 mark of the second quarter.  Bledsoe made the technical free throw and Knight hit a 3 for a four-point possession.  Bledsoe capped the run with a 3-pointer of his own, his first in four first-half attempts.  As a team, the Suns shot 8-of-19 from beyond the arc through the first two quarters.

Knight and Warren combined for 23 points in a 35-point third quarter, helping the Suns set a new season high for points scored in the third quarter.  All of Warren’s 10 points came in 1:42 stretch that included his one and only made 3-pointer of the game.  Knight, meanwhile, at one time scored seven unanswered.  His six-foot floater gave him 13 for the quarter and the Suns their largest lead of the game, 93-68, at the 2:17 mark.

The Suns shot 53.0 percent from the field; their second time this season clearing 50 percent from the field. They are now 40-3 since the start of the 2013-14 season when shooting at least 50 percent from the field.

THE BAD

Four missed field goals and three turnovers, two by Ronnie Price, by the Suns to open the second quarter allowed the Clippers to erase a seven-point deficit with a 10-2 run.  Lance Stephenson scored three points, Jamal Crawford two plus his assist to a cutting Josh Smith for a two-handed dunk gave L.A. a 35-34 lead at the 8:14 mark; their largest advantage of the half and first since it was 3-0 in the first 30 seconds of the game.

Both Morris and Price exited the game in the first half.  Morris suffered a mild left knee sprain midway through the first quarter, while Price took what appeared to be a Smith elbow to the head as Smith went to set a screen on Price at the 7:36 mark of the second quarter.  Price was escorted back to the locker room and later diagnosed with a concussion.  Morris did not return and finished with five points, two rebounds and one steal in six minutes.

Two more Suns players left the game midway through the fourth quarter.  Just 16 seconds after he entered, Devin Booker exited due to a cut over his left eye.  Moments later, Sonny Weems came out of the game with a cut over his right eye.  Both headed back to the locker room to get stitched up; Booker received six, Weems five.

And the Suns starters thought their night was over with the lead at 25.  It should’ve been, but after a Wesley Johnson and-1 and Warren bad pass, Knight, Leuer, P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler re-entered the game, joining Bledsoe for the final 4:03 of the game.  The Clippers had closed the gap to 15, 107-92, when the starters returned.

STAT OF THE GAME

63: The combined point total of Bledsoe and Knight, who had 41 combined points in the first half with Bledsoe scoring 22 and Knight 19, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau marked the first time that two Suns scored at least 19 points in a half since Goran Dragic (21) and Michael Beasley (19) did it in the first half on April 5, 2013, against Golden State

HE SAID IT

“Our guards played great tonight,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.  “Between Bled and Brandon, they shot the ball well.  We needed them tonight with Markieff getting hurt early.  Those guys really picked us up.  T.J. gave us a lift off the bench.  They were a little under-manned without Chris and J.J., and Blake getting kicked out, but we’ll take it.”

NOTED

Suns improved to 4-4 for the season and at .500 or better after eight games for the ninth straight season

Bledsoe finished one assist/rebound shy of a triple-double for the fourth time in his career

Bledsoe, who spent his first three seasons with the Clippers, improved to 2-6 in the games that he has played against his former team

Thanks to TNT, which had Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Rachel Nichols on the call, an 8:30 p.m. tip-off was in actuality 8:52

Staff Sergeant Samantha Renner performed the National Anthem and five wounded warriors were introduced alongside the Suns starting line-up as part of the team’s tribute to military veterans and active duty personnel on Military Appreciation Night

UP NEXT

The season’s second-longest homestand continues with a matchup against Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Nov. 14.  Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns have won six of the last seven against the Nuggets, including the one and only meeting in the Valley last season on Nov. 26, 120-112, as Morris recorded a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists.  Bledsoe added 21 points, 10 assists and three steals.

Overall, the Suns are 16-3 in their last 19 home games in the series.

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