The Clippers continued their recent roll against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, emerging with a 120-100 triumph at US Airways Center that represented their fourth consecutive victory. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. A defense that had been Pro Bowl-worthy got the stops it needed. The Clippers gave up 41 points in the second quarter and were surrendering baskets in a hurry to start the fourth before the starters re-entered and things improved. The Clippers went on a 15-0 run and held the Suns to only one field goal over the game’s final 7:30.
2. DeAndre Jordan was not a liability from the line. The notoriously poor free-throw shooter made eight of 15 from the line, including seven of 12 in the fourth quarter when the Suns intentionally fouled him. Teams might be more reluctant to try this strategy if Jordan can show that he can consistently make at least half his shots from the free-throw line.
3. Talking it out continues to help the Clippers. The chatter level went up again in response to things good and bad, the Clippers praising each other as well as chiding when necessary. No one seems to be taking anything personal as they all are striving for the same goal. “If there’s a problem, we’re going to get on each other about it,” Jordan said. “Ultimately, it’s something that’s going to help us later on down the road. It’s not good to hold it in or not say something that you see is going wrong, guards and bigs and coaches too. So it’s just a learning experience every game.”
4. Spencer Hawes looked more like the player the Clippers hoped they were getting. The reserve forward-center had perhaps his most efficient game, scoring 11 points on six shots and making back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter. If he can stretch defenses with his outside shooting then his presence will be a big plus for the Clippers.
5. It was a good early start to the extended version of the Grammy trip. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he viewed the game against the Suns as the beginning of the Grammy trip because his team would travel back to Los Angeles for a brief stopover before continuing on to Salt Lake City for the official start of the eight-game trip. One thing to watch in the coming days is whether the blizzard hitting New York affects the Clippers, who are scheduled to fly into New York on Super Bowl Sunday and play the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 2.