Suns 116, Clippers 108

At times, it appeared the Phoenix Suns would have their second

straight major collapse. After leading the Los Angeles Clippers by

as many as 25 points, they watched their advantage dwindle to

four.

But instead of completely folding again, they regrouped. With

Jason Richardson scoring 29 points and reserve Hakim Warrick having

a season-high 25, the Suns kept the Clippers winless on the road

with a 116-108 victory on Friday night.

”I wasn’t worried,” Richardson said, ”but it was a concern.

You knew by looking in some guys’ eyes that we didn’t want to

lose.

”We knew we had to buckle down and win. We never got nervous.

We didn’t panic.”

However, Suns coach Alvin Gentry also had some concerns.

”Once again we got off to a good start,” he said. ”We have to

find a way to maintain it. We have to be consistent. We have to do

a better job of closing out games.”

Warrick agreed with his coach.

”We have to do a better job of not taking our foot off the gas

pedal and keep on going,” Warrick said. ”Teams are too good in

this league. We have to play the way we played to get that

lead.”

The victory was the Suns’ ninth in a row over the Clippers and

extended their home winning streak against Los Angeles to seven. No

visiting Pacific Division team other than the Los Angeles Lakers

has left US Airways Center with a win since April 17, 2007 – a

total of 27 games. Besides the Clippers, the Suns have won 10

straight at home against both Sacramento and Golden State.

Steve Nash added 16 points and 10 assists for the Suns, Channing

Frye scored 16 with four 3-pointers and Grant Hill had 12.

Eric Gordon topped the Clippers with a season-high 32 points,

Ryan Gomes had a season-high 20, and Blake Griffin had 20 points

and 14 rebounds. Brian Cook had a season-high 16 points and 10

rebounds in the Clippers’ eighth consecutive road loss of the

season and their 12th straight over two years.

Just like in their previous game, the Suns got out quickly,

opening a 25-point advantage in the first quarter at 42-17 – their

highest-scoring period of the season. They led by 21 in the second

quarter before settling for a 67-51 halftime lead. At that stage,

Richardson already had 22 points, hitting nine of 12 shots,

including four of six 3-pointers.

”Phoenix jumped on us early,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro

said. ”I expected that. They got a big early cushion, but I liked

the way we kept fighting. We made too many mistakes. But we kept

battling.”

Gordon also liked the manner in which the Clippers fought back,

especially after having played Thursday night.

”But we have to maintain,” he said. ”They hit so many 3s that

it made it tough for us. They stretched it out.”

After an opening basket by the Clippers, Richardson reeled off

nine straight points, and the Suns were off and running. A field

goal and a three-point play by Hill gave the Suns a 14-4 lead and

Los Angeles never got within single digits again until the third

period.

Warrick also was a big contributor in the first half, scoring 16

points with five rebounds, while Hill had 10 points and five

assists.

Unlike their previous game, when they squandered leads of 23

points in the first half, 18 after three periods and 12 entering

the fourth quarter before losing in double-overtime to Chicago, the

Suns did not falter this time.

Gomes connected on three 3-pointers in the first half and led

the Clippers with 13 points, while Gordon scored 11 but hit only

4-of-11 shots.

The Clippers whittled the deficit to four points twice in the

third quarter, the last at 75-71, before the Suns went on a 23-10

run, ending the period with a 98-81 lead. During that burst, Frye

made two 3-pointers and Richardson and Nash one apiece. Throughout

the game, both teams were extremely accurate on 3-pointers, the

Suns finishing 12 of 25 and the Clippers 11 of 24.

In the fourth quarter, the closest Los Angeles got was 114-108,

but its rally fell short.

Notes: The Suns’ 67 halftime points were a season high. …

Gentry used to coach the Clippers (from 2000-03) and Del Negro was

a player with the Suns (2000-02) before becoming a broadcaster and

executive with the team. … In Gentry’s first two games as Suns

coach, Phoenix beat the Clippers 140-100 and 142-119 on Feb. 17-18,

2009. … The Clippers played without two of their regular starters

– guard Baron Davis (sore left knee) and center Chris Kaman

(sprained left ankle). … The average age of the Clippers’

starting five was 21.4 years, the youngest in the club’s

history.