LOS ANGELES – Despite winning three of four matchup against the Phoenix Suns last year, the Los Angeles Clippers knew nothing would be easy against a roster coach Doc Rivers considers one of the toughest to scout against. The Suns’ ability to throw different looks at their opponents with a three-guard rotation featuring Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas is clearly an advantage.
A first-half tie turned into a easy victory as L.A. started the second half with a 10-3 run led by a few three-pointers by Chris Paul. The Suns’ tired legs – playing on the second night of a back-to-back – were the scapegoat as the well-rested Clippers ultimately cruised to a 120-107 victory.
Here’s what we learned from the Clippers Saturday night:
DeAndre Jordan’s defense set the tempo
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was the star of the night as he finished with 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting, a season-high 18 rebounds and 7 blocks in 34 minutes of action.
“With the performance we put on last game, we really had to come out tonight and bounce back,” Jordan said following the win. “I just wanted to set the tone defensively for our team. We knew they had some great guards who can really penetrate and bring defenses down.”
The key to the Clippers third-quarter run was Jordan’s activity on the defensive end of the floor. Whether it was blocking and contesting shots or playing the passing lanes, Jordan was all over the floor.
His intensity catalyzed 12 minutes of exactly how this Clippers team could be playing on a nightly basis.
“He is unbelievable,” Paul said in the postgame press conference. “D.J. [DeAndre Jordan] is just one of those guys that thankfully does not miss games. I could almost not imagine him not out there, because he covers up so much for us on the defensive end. When guys blow by us, they know they have to get by D.J. down at the rim.”
Third quarter spark
Chris Paul blew the game wide open to start the second half, connecting on three shots from beyond the arc to lead a 10-3 run. More impressive than the scoring was the consistency in which the defense was able to step up.
“It felt good to actually get out in transition and get some stops,” Paul said. “That’s the biggest thing. It’s tough for us when we have to take the ball out of the net every time down. It get s fun knowing you can stop teams, and when you’re getting stops like that, I don’t know why it seems like it, but the basket opens up too.”
The Clippers ultimately outscored the Suns 42-20 in the third quarter, going up by as many as 26 points at one point. It was their biggest lead of the season.
Their near-perfect third quarter performance was followed by a potentially nightmarish one in which they let Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas trim the 26-point lead to just 11.
The Clippers’ lead as the aggressor won them the game as they went to the free-throw line 43 times compared to the Suns’ 23 attempts.
Chris Paul is dangerous passing OR shooting
Not often will Chris Paul lead the Clippers in shot attempts. Going up against the three-headed monster that is the Suns, it was expected Paul would be somewhat aggressive when it came to getting his points. Finishing with 32 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, however, was far from anticipated.
“Sam [Cassell] is constantly on me,” Paul explained. “He thinks I pass up a thousand shots. I do pass up a few shots here and there, and I am working on that. They [the coaching staff[ constantly stay on me about being aggressive.”
When the Suns made an attempt at a late-game comeback, it was Paul there once again to push the lead back up to a safe margin. Paul scored seven of his 32 points in the final 3 minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I try to pick my spots,” Paul said. “I think I am pretty good about making two people have to guard me. Sometimes I find an open guy, and sometimes I do pass up some shots. I just have to shoot it.”
Each of the Clippers’ starters finished in double figures.