10:00 PM ET, April 2, 2014
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
Darren Collison, Blake Griffin propel Clippers' big rally past Suns
Chris Paul added 20 points, including a 32-foot 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired to put the Clippers up for good 108-106 with 1:48 to play.
Los Angeles, winning the last four on a five-game trip, clinched the Pacific Division title with the win.
"It's nice but it doesn't really mean much," Paul said. "We won the division title last year and lost in the first round. Last year we would have gone into the game knowing we had a chance to win the division. Now we don't care, it's all about the bigger picture."
Eight Suns reached double figures, led by Marcus Morris with 16 points.
Phoenix would have been alone in the No. 7 spot in the West with a victory, just a half-game behind Golden State. Instead, the Suns fell into a three-way tie with Memphis and Dallas for the last two playoff spots in the West. Phoenix would lose the tiebreaker the way things stood Wednesday night.
The defeat followed a blowout loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
"We had this game almost in our pockets," Goran Dragic said. "But now is not the time to think like that, because we still have to have our confidence up to play those last seven games. `'
The Suns used a 22-5 run to lead 91-74 with 1:49 left in the third period and were up 91-78 entering the fourth.
Griffin had been listed as doubtful for the game with back spasms.
Ex-Sun Jared Dudley made two free throws with 8.1 seconds to play to clinch the win.
Dragic and Gerald Green scored 15 points apiece for the Suns, but Dragic was just 2 of 11 from the field, 0 of 5 from 3-point range. P.J. Tucker, whose rebounding was a big factor in the Suns' third-quarter run, had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
With Griffin and Paul on the bench, the Clippers scored 11 in a row early in the fourth quarter -- the last five by Willie Green -- to cut Phoenix's lead to 92-85. Dudley's 3-pointer with 5:57 to go cut it to 97-94.
"You know, we won the game because of our second unit," Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. "Honestly, when we were down 17, I was thinking if we didn't cut into it, I was just going to keep them out on the floor, but then they cut into the lead so quickly."
Dudley's two free throws put Los Angeles ahead 105-104 with 2:38 left. Eric Bledsoe's 9-foot floater gave the Suns their last lead, 106-105 with 2:15 left.
Phoenix's defense was strong on the next possession, and just before the clock was to expire, Paul hit from far beyond the arc. Griffin's rebound basket with 49.5 seconds left made it 110-106. Bledsoe scored on the layup to cut it to 110-108.
The Suns had a chance to tie it, but Collison blocked Bledsoe's layup from behind. The ball went out of bounds off the Suns and Dudley's free throws iced the win.
"We can't afford to have lulls against good teams like this," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said.
The Suns broke away from a 69-69 tie with their 22-5 outburst. Tucker had three rebound baskets in the run. He was fouled on his final one, capping the big run with a three-point play that gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 91-74, with 1:49 left in the period. The Clippers scored the next four to trail 91-78 entering the fourth.
Phoenix led 62-60 at the break.
Clippers guard J.J. Redick will likely make his return Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks after missing the last 25 games with a bulging disk in his lower back. Rivers said there was a "75 percent" chance Redick would return Thursday and multiple team sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com the plan is for Redick to start against Dallas. ... Paul has eight straight games with at least three steals. ... Collison has scored at least 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in four years. ... Bledsoe drew a technical foul for slamming his hand on the scorer's table after being called for an offensive foul, his third foul of the game, with 10:39 left in first half. ... Jamal Crawford, in and out of the Clippers lineup lately, was out again with a sore left Achilles tendon. He will miss his third straight game Thursday ... Only two of Phoenix's seven remaining games are at home.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi was used in this report.
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 2: Matt Barnes #22 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks against the Phoenix Suns on April 2, 2014...(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Chris Paul hit a go-ahead 3-point shot at the end of a shot clock to give the Clippers a 108-106 lead with less than two minutes to play. He finished with 20 points and nine assists to help his team overcome a 17-point third-quarter deficit.
X factor: Led by Paul, the Clippers' defense on Goran Dragic put the Suns point guard on the foul line quite a bit, but it also battered the point guard into a 2-for-11 shooting night.
That was ... achy: Blake Griffin gutted out a 23-point outing but his back injury that listed him as a game-time decision heading into the game clearly bothered him. He struggled to finish through contact and to move laterally, but he did get in a spectacular put-back dunk over teammate DeAndre Jordan and two Suns.
Next 5 Games
The Clippers clinch the Pacific Division title with a win AND a Warriors loss tonight. It would be just their 2nd in franchise history (the other came last season). The Clippers first season in Los Angeles came in 1984-85. From that point through the 2010-11 season, which was the season prior to acquiring Chris Paul, they posted a .349 win percentage - worst in the league during that span. Since trading for CP-3, they have won nearly 67 percent of their games, the 4th best mark in the NBA.
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