PHOENIX — The Los Angeles Clippers struggle to put away the Phoenix Suns, but they always seem to accomplish the mission in the end.
Guard Chris Paul collected 23 points and 12 assists, and center DeAndre Jordan added 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, but the Clippers needed a 15-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to finish off the Suns 120-100 Sunday.
Forward Blake Griffin matched Paul with 23 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists. Guard J.J. Redick contributed 20 points, including five during the decisive run that put the game away for Los Angeles.
The Clippers (30-14) won their fourth straight overall and their sixth straight against the Suns, including all three meetings this season.
“We were so connected tonight,” Paul said. “Everyone has been engaged for a while now, and it’s a good feeling. At some point you start buying in, and playing well helps. The big test will be when it’s not clicking like it was tonight. Our offense is pretty good right now, and when we get stops, we’re tough to beat.
The Suns, who lost 121-120 to the Clippers in Los Angeles last month, kept coming Sunday before the Clippers held them to one field goal in the final seven minutes, turning the game into a blowout.
Jordan helped salt away the game late by banking in a couple of the seven free throws he made in 12 fourth-quarter attempts. The NBA’s field-goal-percentage leader continued his incredible run of late, hitting all five of his shots to go 38-for-43 (.884) from the field over the past six games. However, his free throws (40 percent) remain an adventure.
“It’s like golf. When it goes in the hole, it goes in the hole,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. “They were playing the averages, and he banked them in, and that was great for D.J.”
Phoenix guard Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points, including 10 straight early in the fourth quarter when the Suns whittled an 89-77 deficit to 96-94. Guard Gerald Green finished off that Phoenix run by following two Thomas 3-pointers with one of his own with 7:57 left.
The Clippers took over from there. While Jordan was a force on the defensive end, Redick followed two free throws by guard Jamal Crawford with a 3-pointer, and Paul added two free throws and a jumper to make it 105-94 with 5:00 left.
By the time Thomas scored again on a pair of free throws with 3:14 left, the Suns were out of it.
“The stats say Jordan had four (blocks), but that can’t be right, it seemed like he had 14,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s a big influence down there, and we’ve got to be aware of where he’s at. You think you have a layup, but he’s so long and does such a great job of coming from a distance that he still gets it.”
Guard Eric Bledsoe had 17 points and seven assists and center Alex Len had 15 points for the Suns, who had won seven straight at home before falling twice in less than 48 hours. They missed another chance to improve on their two-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, who also lost Sunday, for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We made a comeback, we were in the game and we just made some key mistakes,” Thomas said. “We had a travel call, a full-court pass turnover … you can’t have those things happen against a good team like this. We’ve got to learn quickly. We’re in the Western Conference; you lose a couple of games and you can be out of the playoffs. We have to capitalize on opportunities.”
The Clippers missed six of their first seven shots and needed almost three minutes to score, but they finished the quarter on a 15-6 run to take a 23-16 lead.
The Suns answered with a 41-point second quarter, wiping out a 10-point deficit with a 28-13 run late in the quarter. Bledsoe gave the Suns the lead at 53-52 on a 3-pointer with 2:17 left, and Len pushed the margin to five with two free throws with 1:22 to go. The home team led 57-55 at halftime.
“Phoenix doesn’t go away,” Rivers said. “There’s no lead safe when you have Isaiah Thomas and Bledsoe and (Goran) Dragic and Gerald Green. Honest to God, even with three minutes left (and up 16 points), I didn’t feel safe.”
NOTES: Clippers F Blake Griffin beat the Suns with a buzzer-beating basket on Dec. 8, and Phoenix’s last two home losses before Sunday came the same way, a F Khris Middleton game-winner for the Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 15) and G James Harden dagger for the Houston Rockets on Friday. In between, the Suns won seven straight at US Airways Center. … Clippers G Jamal Crawford (15.7 points per game) and Suns G Isaiah Thomas (15.1) rank Nos. 1 and 2 in bench scoring in the league.
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