Los Angeles Clippers: Phoenix Suns
Longtime Los Angeles Clippers play-by-play man Ralph Lawler didn’t need to remind Chris Paul what a thorn the Phoenix Suns and the city of Phoenix have been for the Los Angeles Clippers over the years.
Lawler had apprised Paul of it before both losses the Clippers suffered in Phoenix last season.
Paul likes to know when the Clippers play teams against which they have suffered long road losing streaks. Phoenix was one of the sole survivors after Paul & Co. vanquished demons in Utah, Denver, San Antonio, Sacramento and Orlando last season.
Going into Sunday night, the Clippers hadn’t won in Phoenix since April 2007, losing 10 straight in the desert, and hadn’t won back-to-back overall games against the Suns since 2004.
Both streaks were snapped Sunday when the Clippers beat the Suns, 103-77, to extend their franchise best winning streak to 13 games. (The Clips topped the Suns at Staples Center on Dec. 8, the last time they faced off.)
The winning streak, which is the longest in the NBA this season, also brought the Clippers to within a half-game of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the NBA. The win also gave the Clippers their biggest margin of victory in Phoenix (26), their most wins in a month (12), their most consecutive road wins (6) and their best record to start a season (21-6).
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Paul aggressive early
Paul woke up Sunday morning under the weather and didn't feel well during shootaround. But this was a game he wanted to win. He no longer wants to hear that the Clippers haven’t won in a building or against a team in however long. He came up short in both opportunities last season in Phoenix and he wasn’t going to let it happen again. He came out aggressive to start the game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with five assists in the first quarter. He took his foot off the gas, scoring only four points in the second quarter and finished with 17 points, 13 assists and 5 steals. He once again was able to take the fourth quarter off as the Clippers opened up a 31-point lead before the final period. Paul is averaging a career-low in fourth-quarter minutes as 14 of the Clippers' 21 wins have come by 10 points or more. Last season, 17 of their 40 wins came by that margin.
Griffin outburst and restraint
Blake Griffin received a loud ovation at the US Airways Center when the starting lineups were announced as many Clippers fans were in attendance. Griffin didn’t disappoint them, dropping several highlight-reel dunks and lobs while also showing a new facet to his game. Griffin hit a couple of mid-range jumpers, as well as a 3-pointer to finish the third quarter. He continues to show how much he has improved under the tutelage of shooting coach Bob Thate. Griffin also went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Almost as impressive was his temperament when he was fouled hard several times by Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown. Each time, Griffin simply got up, looked at his teammates and glanced at the officials. In the past, Griffin may have received a technical for complaining with the officials and, in some cases, might have gotten under their skin to the point that they wouldn’t call borderline fouls against him. That's not an issue now.
Crawford on the road
As good as Jamal Crawford has been this season, his numbers have dropped off after the first 14 games. He was averaging more than 18 points and shooting 46 percent from field to start the season. It has been about 15 points on less than 40 percent shooting recently. Crawford, however, looked like his old self again against Phoenix. He scored 12 points in the second quarter as the Clippers began to pull away and finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The only blemish in an otherwise great game, which included three assists, was that he missed two consecutive free throws, after hitting all his free throws on the road this season. Crawford now has a league-leading 20 or more points off the bench this season.