Suns 111, Clippers 98
With Aaron Brooks and Zabian Dowdell doing their best imitations of Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns got back in the win column.
Grant Hill scored 19 points, Brooks and Dowdell showed flashes of the ailing Nash, and the Suns ended a four-game losing streak with a 111-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
In halting their longest skid of the season, the Suns beat the Clippers for the eighth consecutive time at US Airways Center. Los Angeles has not won at Phoenix since March 17, 2007.
Nash, the Suns' scoring leader and the league leader in assists, was a late scratch because of flulike symptoms. This was the fifth game he missed this season, but the first time the Suns won without him.
Brooks finished with 17 points and six assists. Dowdell, a rookie, had a season-high 14 points and five assists.
''Obviously you are not going to replace Steve, but I thought they did a good job of running the team, being aggressive offensively and then making plays,'' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
Nash skipped the Suns' shootaround but said shortly before the game that he expected to play. Nevertheless, Brooks was told to be ready to start.
''When he came in (to the locker room), I was excited to see him,'' Brooks said. ''Then, I had to get a different mindset.
''This was my first win as a starting point guard for the Suns,'' added Brooks, who was acquired in midseason from the Houston Rockets.
Dowdell was happy to get an opportunity to play.
''You go from not playing a couple of games to actually being out there for an extended period of time,'' he said. ''You have to be prepared. Behind the scenes I have been working and it paid off tonight.''
Six players scored in double figures for the Suns. Hakim Warrick added 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jared Dudley scored 16, and Marcin Gortat had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Eric Gordon led the Clippers with 21 points, and Blake Griffin had 20 points and 13 rebounds. However, Griffin shot only 6 of 15 from the field.
''The beginning of the first quarter, we did all right,'' Griffin said. ''Then, it went downhill.''
The Suns took command early in the second quarter. With the score tied at 32, they outscored the Clippers 25-12 through the remainder of the period and assumed a 57-44 halftime lead.
''I don't think we had much energy tonight,'' Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''We let Phoenix run where they wanted to when they wanted to.''
Third-string point guard Dowdell, getting extended playing time because of Nash's absence, sparked the burst with 10 points and three assists. After missing his first two shots badly - they didn't even hit the rim - Dowdell connected on four consecutive attempts, mostly knifing his way through the Clippers' defense.
Meanwhile, the Suns' usually porous defense did a commendable job on Griffin, the Clippers' high-scoring rookie. Although Griffin exhilarated the crowd with two of his patented slam dunks, he was only 4 of 10 for 10 points in the first half.
Following a mediocre shooting first period, the Suns sizzled in the second quarter, hitting 13 of 21 for 61 percent. Instead of settling for 3-point attempts, which they often do, the Suns were taking the ball to the basket and scored 28 points in the paint.
Hill was the game's high scorer at halftime with 13 points, including 11 in the first quarter, when he was 5 for 6 as Phoenix took a 25-23 lead.
With Brooks on the floor in the third quarter, the Suns widened their advantage to 88-70 by the end of the period. Brooks accounted for 10 points and three assists during the period.
Notes: The Suns open a five-game, eight-day road trip Sunday at San Antonio, followed by Chicago, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas before they return home for their final two games of the season. ... The Clippers have six games remaining, all against teams in the playoffs or still in contention - two each against Oklahoma City and Memphis, and one each against Dallas and Houston. ... Before Friday, Nash was the NBA leader in assists with 11.4 per game, his best average since the 2006-07 season. He also led all NBA players with 48 double-digit assists games and led NBA guards with 41 double-doubles.