Griffin's strong finish lifts Clippers over Suns
LOS ANGELES—Blake Griffin threw down three dunks in a 1:40 span late in the fourth quarter and had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the Los Angeles Clippers' 103-86 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Chris Paul had 15 points and 15 assists to help the Clippers move two games behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division. They have won five straight at home since their 91-87 loss to the Suns on March 15.
Marcin Gortat led Phoenix with 23 points and seven rebounds. Steve Nash had 15 assists, but only one point -- on a free throw that came after a technical foul against Bobby Simmons with 4:14 to play.
Phoenix's Grant Hill missed his second straight game because of inflammation in his right knee. Shannon Brown, who scored a career-high 32 points Tuesday night in a home loss to San Antonio while starting in Hill's place, had 10 points in his 300th NBA game and 20th career start.
Los Angeles closed the third quarter with a 10-2 run that extended its two-point lead to 74-64, and Nick Young hit a 3-pointer to make it 81-68 with 9:48 to play. Phoenix got as close as 81-74 on Channing Frye's 18-footer, capping a 6-0 spurt while Griffin was taking a breather.
But the Suns made only one field goal over the next 5:45. Griffin returned to the floor with 6:19 remaining, and the Clippers responded with a 13-5 run capped by his back-to-back dunks 28 seconds apart. The second one came off Griffin's steal of Nash's turnover and made it 96-70.
Neither Griffin nor Paul attempted a free throw in the first half. But DeAndre Jordan, who came in shooting 50 percent from the line, made seven of eight as the Clippers took a 43-41 halftime lead -- despite shooting 40.5 percent from the field and committing eight turnovers that were converted into 13 points by the Suns.
Gortat, the only player to start in each of the Suns' first 51 games, picked up his third foul with 34 seconds left in the second quarter but was on the court for the start of the third.
Clippers guard Nick Young, coming off the bench for the third straight game after starting the previous three, missed his first five shots and finished 3 for 11 with nine points. He is shooting 36.1 percent from the field in seven games since he was acquired from Washington on March 15 in a three-way trade involving Denver.
The Clippers, who lost the two previous meetings with the Suns this season by a combined margin of seven points, won for only the second time in their last 15 games against them. The season series concludes April 19 in Arizona.
Notes: Phoenix rookie F Markieff Morris didn't play because of the flu. ... Griffin has scored 686 points in the paint this season, second only to Dwight Howard's 782 for Orlando. ... The Suns, two games out of a playoff spot with 15 games remaining, haven't gone consecutive years without a postseason berth since a three-year stretch from 1986 through 1988. ... Nash is 122 assists away from surpassing Oscar Robertson for fifth place on the NBA career list, and would have to average 8.1 in the Suns' next 15 games to do it before the end of the regular season. He has reached double digits in 32 of his 47 games so far. ... In the 18 games Paul and Nash have played head-to-head, their respective teams have each won nine times. Paul has 122 games with at least 20 points and 10 assists since the start of his 2005-06 rookie season, and Nash is second in that department with 110. ... Alvin Gentry, who coached the Clippers for two-plus seasons, is 11-2 against them since taking the Suns job. ... Through the first three meetings this season, Griffin is averaging 23.0 points and 9.7 rebounds. Last season as a rookie, he averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 boards and shot 47.5 percent in his four games against the Suns. ... The Suns finished March with a 12-5 record. The Clippers are 9-9 with two games left this month, and are the first NBA team since the 1966-67 Cincinnati Royals to play at least 20 games in a calendar month.