Suns come close to shocking Clippers; fall 112-101 in season finale
PHOENIX, Ariz. – It was a tale of two teams passing in the night: The Phoenix Suns were heading toward another mundane offseason, while the Los Angeles Clippers were still fighting for playoff seeding in their final regular season game on Tuesday night in Phoenix, Ariz.
In the first half, it played out just like that. Los Angeles was able to run circles around Phoenix, behind a combination of relentless three-point shooting and horrible shooting on the part of the Suns. Phoenix had no answer for forward Blake Griffin, who had 13 of his 20 points in the first quarter. Center DeAndre Jordan was a major factor as well. In the first 12 minutes, Jordan had nine points and hit the glass for six rebounds.
The Clippers outscored the Suns 37-17 in the second quarter to take a commanding 69-43 lead into the half.
Things took a strange turn for Los Angeles in the second half, as Phoenix let it all hang out, and nearly rallied all the way back after being down by as many as 30 points.
Los Angeles had a major scare, but they were able to leave Arizona with a 112-101 win over the Suns, giving them a firm grip on the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
The Suns lost for the 10th time in their final 11 games and finished 39-43. It’s their worst finish to a season since their inaugural 1968-69 season.
“They made a stretch of threes there that really kind of blew the game open in the second quarter. Come into the third quarter, I don’t think it started great, but then you’re down almost 30. It could easily be 40 or 50,” Hornacek said. “The guys kept playing, which we were happy about, then that last group came in there and I thought they played well together. They executed some plays, they moved the ball around and that’s why they got easy shots and put up some points.”
After giving up 69 points in the first half, Phoenix was able to slow down Los Angeles’ offense, allowing just 43 points in the second half. It got so close that Clippers head coach Doc Rivers had to put point guard Chris Paul – who led Los Angeles with 22 points – Griffin and Jordan back in in the fourth quarter to assure that Phoenix wouldn’t take them over.
With nothing but pride to play for at this point, the Suns just let it all hang out, knowing there was no tomorrow. Center Earl Barron had nine points in 25 minutes of play, including two three pointers. It’s been a while since Barron hit from downtown. The last time he hit a three was when he was with the Miami Heat during the 2007-08 season.
“It felt great. Wish it could’ve happened earlier. Better late than never,” Barron said. “It was just a matter of getting out there, getting comfortable, being relaxed and having fun.”
The key to Phoenix’s comeback was that they put everything aside that went on this season, and like Barron said, just have fun.
“It was relaxed. Guys were making good moves, making good passes, shooting the ball when they were open. Just playing free,” Barron said.
It was quite a season for the Suns, and now it’s over. Nothing but cleaning out lockers and exit interviews left for the players on Wednesday, while Hornacek tries to pickup the pieces of a tumultuous season.
“Obviously there were some ups and down this year. Some years are like that. Injuries, trades, we had a little bit of everything this year,” Hornacek said. “It’s disappointing in a way, because you always try to build on the year before, but when you look at how young our guys are, and I think they all got better, that’s a positive step. We just need to continue to get better.”
“I’m sure we’ll add a few pieces and go back at it again with the same attitude we started this year with,” Hornacek said. “We just gotta keep improving.”
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