Suns 127, Clippers 101
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Jason Richardson did a solid job of putting away the Los Angeles Clippers in the third quarter. As a reward, they got to spend the entire fourth quarter on the bench, kick back and enjoy Channing Frye's long-range shooting clinic.
Stoudemire had 30 points and 14 rebounds for the Suns, who breezed to their second rout of the Clippers in six days with a 127-101 victory on Wednesday night - completing a sweep of the four-game season series for the second straight year.
``We just played with more energy in the third quarter, and that was the difference,'' Nash said. ``It was great for me to rest in the fourth quarter. I've been struggling a little bit with some injuries, so the more rest I can get is obviously better for me.''
Phoenix is fifth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Utah for homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Suns kick off a seven-game homestand Thursday night against the Jazz - the first of three more meetings with them, including the regular-season finale on April 14 at Salt Lake City.
``That was the whole purpose of coming out strong in the third quarter. We wanted to really jump on them and try to create the big lead and allow the starters to get some rest for tomorrow - which we did,'' Stoudemire said. ``Back-to-backs are always tough, especially when you're playing Utah on the second night, because they're physical. But we're going to be prepared for them.''
Jason Richardson added 22 points for the Suns, who shot 56 percent en route to their 13th victory in 16 games. Frye scored 23 points, making four 3-pointers during a 2:37 span of the fourth to help Phoenix build its margin to 29 points with 6:45 remaining.
``That was great. We had fun watching him tee off,'' Stoudemire said. ``Once he gets hot, it's hard to turn him off. And tonight he had it going.''
Chris Kaman had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who haven't beaten Phoenix since Jan. 15, 2008, and are 3-13 against them since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals at Phoenix. The loss was their eighth this season by 20 or more points.
``I don't know why we did do poorly tonight,'' Kaman said. ``We came in feeling confident. It was a good first half and we remained close. After halftime, it all went downhill. Tonight was just not our night. We have to run our defensive plays and stay on top of the pick-and-rolls.''
Davis, who committed a career-high nine turnovers in Monday's 108-104 win over Utah, had only one against the Suns in 25 minutes. It came with 8:10 left in the third quarter, when he attempted to thread the needle with a bounce pass to Drew Gooden in the lane and the ball was knocked away by Richardson, leading to Richardson's 3-pointer and a 70-63 Phoenix advantage.
``We're playing well. That's the most important thing,'' Stoudemire said. ``Everybody's putting in a lot of hard work, and it's showing. Right now we're getting to the point where we're becoming a heck of a defensive team.''
In the previous meeting last Friday at Phoenix, Suns center Robin Lopez capitalized on Kaman's ejection 20 seconds into the third quarter and finished with a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds. But Kaman had the upper hand in the rematch - statistically at least - leading the Clippers to a 58-57 halftime lead with 18 points. Lopez finished with five points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
``Kaman's just a tough matchup for us - he's a tough matchup for anyone - so we decided that we would try to just guard him with one guy and not come down and double him,'' coach Alvin Gentry said. ``That allowed us to keep Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler and the rest of those guys out of the game with the 3-point shots.''
Neither team led by more than five points until Jared Dudley and Frye made 3-pointers 29 seconds apart to give Phoenix a 51-42 margin with 5:56 left in the second quarter. The Clippers responded with a 20-footer by Kaman, two free throws by Davis and a 3 by Gordon, who connected on his first four shots from behind the arc and finished with 21 points.
NOTES: Nash wasn't the only Olympic torch lighter in the arena. Among the crowd of 17,455 was fellow Olympian Rafer Johnson, who lit the cauldron atop the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to start the 1984 Summer Games. Nash competed for Canada in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Johnson won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Games in Rome. ... The Suns' next victory will be their 1,900th as a franchise during the regular season. ... Nash had 13 assists. Another one was assist taken away late in the first quarter, after a video replay determined that Richardson had released his shot after the 24-second clock expired. ... Davis and Nash are among four active players with at least 12,000 points and 5,000 assists. The others are Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson. ... Phoenix is 14-5 since sixth man Leandro Barbosa left the lineup to undergo surgery on his right wrist to have a cyst removed. ... Clippers reserve F Craig Smith missed his second straight game because of a strained left biceps. ... The Suns are 25-4 when shooting over 50 percent.