Paul, Griffin, Jordan lead Clippers past winless Suns 116-98
LOS ANGELES (AP) — DeAndre Jordan looked around the press room with that big, megawatt smile and playfully avoided a question about his injured thumb as though it never happened.
Jordan sprained his right thumb Sunday but played with it taped on Monday night. That meant the Big Three for the Los Angeles Clippers was still very much intact and effective.
Chris Paul scored 24 points and Blake Griffin had 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 116-98 victory over the winless Phoenix Suns.
Jordan added 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers relied on their top stars in improving to 3-0 this season.
"I feel great," Jordan said. "It was a scary play for a second (on Sunday). I really want to play basketball. I don’t want to miss any games. My teammates were definitely on me about getting it taken care of, but I’m fine."
As are the Clippers. Phoenix, however, has plenty of work to do.
Brandon Knight scored 18 points for the Suns (0-4), who gave Los Angeles a little scare on Halloween when they cut the lead to 56-55 in the third quarter. The Clippers pulled away after that, and Phoenix was marred by fouls and turnovers.
"We kept playing hard, but the momentum kind of switched over," forward T.J. Warren said. "After the third, we couldn’t get stops and we were fouling a lot and putting them on the free throw line."
Griffin scored 15 points in the first half, when Los Angeles built a 13-point lead. He made 12 of 14 free throws.
The Clippers’ defense was stout and forced the Suns into 14 first-half turnovers and 20 overall. Los Angeles closed with an 18-3 run to lead 48-36 at halftime.
"The two things I liked were that we stayed engaged defensively, and that’s what we’ve done all year and they just kept trusting," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Like (they know) it’s going to fall and eventually it started falling and once the basket opened up, with the way we were defending, we were in great shape."
Jordan entertained with an assortment of dunks and layups despite playing with his right thumb wrapped in tape. Early in the first quarter, he grimaced and grabbed his thumb when he missed an alley-oop. But he remained in the game and never showed any signs of a problem afterward.
Four of the five Clippers starters had scored in double figures by the end of the third quarter. Los Angeles’ offense has been slow to catch up with its defense early this season, but the Suns were no match on the defensive end as the Clippers got into a rhythm.
Suns center Tyson Chandler fouled out with 7:51 left, a product of trying to contain Jordan and the rest of the Clippers’ frontcourt.
The fouls and turnovers caught up with the Suns late in the game.
"That’s a lack of focus," coach Earl Watson said. "They all came in the second quarter. And we can’t let foul calls disrupt our rhythm mentally. We have to weather that storm and be mentally tough and play through that."
Suns: G Devin Booker, third on the team in scoring, was a game-time decision and sat out with a sprained toe. Before the game, Watson said: "If he doesn’t play, he’s really in pain."
Clippers: Jordan injured his thumb in a win over Utah. He left the game but returned to play, and X-rays were negative. Rivers said he would monitor the situation throughout the game.
Both the Suns and Clippers were playing back-to-back games for the first time this season. The Suns hosted the Warriors on Sunday and lost 106-100. The Clippers played an afternoon game Sunday followed by a night game. Rivers said he doesn’t mind that kind of schedule.
PIERCE WINS HALLOWEEN
Paul Pierce is still out with an ankle injury, but his Halloween costume was a winner. Pierce dressed up as rock star Rick James but changed just before tip-off. He posed for plenty of pictures before the game, including one with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.
Suns: Return home Wednesday to host Portland. Phoenix won the season series 2-1 last year.
Clippers: Host the Thunder on Wednesday. Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook is averaging 38.7 points per game. He scored 51 against the Suns.
"He’s an unbelievable player, just the impact he has on the game from so many different areas," Griffin said. "The pressure he puts on defenses alone is crazy. You kind of know, that’s just his personality, to just go and destroy and try to take over."
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