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Clippers 112, Suns 108

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PHOENIX — Guard Chris Paul scored 20 points, and he put his team ahead to stay on a 32-foot, 3-point bomb with 1:48 to play as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns 112-108 Wednesday.

With the win and the Golden State Warriors’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs earlier Wednesday, the Clippers clinched their second consecutive Pacific Division title. Los Angeles also moved within 1 1/2 games of the idle Oklahoma City Thunder for second place in the Western Conference.

Forward Blake Griffin and guard Darren Collison had 23 points each for the Clippers, who ended a five-game road trip with four straight wins.

Paul, who handed out nine assists, added three steals in the game, becoming the first player since Allen Iverson (2007-08) to record three or more steals in eight consecutive games.

Forward Marcus Morris scored 16 points and guards Gerald Green and Goran Dragic had 15 each for the Suns, who lost their second straight and missed an opportunity to pass the Memphis Grizzlies for sole possession of seventh place in the West.

The Suns, Grizzlies and Mavericks are all 44-31 with seven games remaining as they fight for the final two postseason spots. Phoenix is currently in ninth place when tiebreakers are enforced.

The Clippers (54-22) outscored the Suns 34-17 in the fourth quarter, with forward Jared Dudley scoring seven, including two free throws to ice the game with 8.1 seconds left. The Suns scored four points in the final 3:50 after a layup by guard Eric Bledsoe gave them a 104-99 lead.

Paul scored on a driving layup before Collison fed forward Matt Barnes for an alley-oop lay-in. Dudley gave the Clippers a 105-104 lead with 2:38 left before Bledsoe put the Suns back up with a 9-foot floating jumper. However, with the shot clock winding down, Paul drilled his long shot and the Clippers closed it out down the stretch.

The Clippers used a 16-3 run in the first quarter to turn a 16-10 deficit into a 26-19 lead. Barnes had 11 points and Paul had eight — getting half of them on a four-point play just before the buzzer to give Los Angeles a 30-25 lead.

The Suns bench — and the Morris twins and Green in particular — took over in the second period. Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 19 points and 16 of the first 18 Phoenix points, and Green added 10 as the Suns reserves shot 13-for-24 from the field and outscored the Clippers bench 39-5 in the first half.

Collison had 11 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter, and a Barnes free throw with 1.2 seconds left pulled the Clippers within 62-60 at halftime.

The Suns seemingly took control midway through the third quarter. With the game tied at 69, Phoenix reeled off a 15-2 run, with back-to-back offensive put-backs by forward P.J. Tucker pushing the lead to 84-71. Tucker, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, added a three-point play with 1:49 left to give the Suns their biggest lead at 91-74.

The Clippers scored the final four points of the third quarter, added a 7-0 run early in the fourth and just kept coming. Five points from forward Glen Davis and back-to-back hoops from Collison shaved Phoenix’s lead to 97-91, and 3-pointers from Dudley and Barnes inched the Clippers within 99-97.

NOTES: The Suns are 13-0 this season when guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe each score at least 16 points. The last five Phoenix wins coming into Wednesday were among the 13. … Clippers guard Chris Paul came into Wednesday with at least three steals in each of his last seven games. That tied the longest streak in the NBA since Boston’s Rajon Rondo had seven straight in 2009-10. Allen Iverson (2007-08) is the only person to have eight straight games with three-plus steals since the start of the 2003-04 season. … The Suns (18.8 per game) and the Clippers (18.5) rank 1-2 in the league in fastbreak points. The Suns lost by double digits for the seventh time this season in a 115-99 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday. In the previous six losses, the Suns came back to win the next game. … Phoenix F Markieff Morris leads the league in points off the bench this season (1,008). He joins Leandro Barbosa (2006-07 and 2007-08), Rodney Rogers (1999-2000), Dan Majerle (1991-92) and Eddie Johnson (1988-89) as Suns players to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Barbosa, Rogers and Johnson all won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award in the season they hit the milestone.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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