Smith Scores 28 Points as Clippers Win, 123-114

Associated Press

Derek Smith scored 28 points, and Junior Bridgeman added 21 to lead the Clippers to a 123-114 win over the Phoenix Suns Saturday night.

The Clippers held off a third-quarter Phoenix rally that saw the Suns cut an 18-point deficit to 6.

Los Angeles shot a blistering 87% in the opening period, hitting 20 of 23 field-goal attempts, to build a 43-27 first-quarter lead.

A James Donaldson jumper at the 8:54 mark of the first period gave the Clippers a lead they never surrendered.

The Suns battled back to narrow the gap to 67-58 at halftime as the Clippers made only 7 of 15 shots in the second quarter.

Maurice Lucas hit 8 of his 16 points in the second period to keep Phoenix close.

The teams traded baskets in the third period until a Michael Cage free throw started a run during which Los Angeles outscored Phoenix, 11-2, to build an 87-69 lead at the 4:25 mark.

The Suns battled back behind Charles Jones, who hit eight points in the quarter, and pulled within four points, 91-87, at the end of the period. But that was as close as they could come.

The Clippers opened the final quarter with two quick baskets, and the Suns could get no closer than six points the rest of the way.

The win was the Clippers' second in three days over the Suns.

The Suns' all-star forward Larry Nance, making his first appearance after missing 12 games with a groin injury, scored seven points. Alvan Adams led Phoenix with 18. Lucas and Kyle Macy each had 16.

Cage had 14 points for the Clippers.

The Suns were handed their fourth straight loss and their eighth in the last nine games. Their record fell to 32-42. The Clippers improved to 27-48.

Clipper Coach Don Chaney, discussing his team's hot shooting, said, "If we come close to shooting like that every game, I wouldn't worry about anything. The first quarter was just an exceptional quarter."

Chaney said the Clippers got easy baskets from fast breaks by playing an up-tempo game with an active defense.

"Whenever you shoot easy baskets, your percentage will be higher," he said. "We mainly got the ball inside quite a bit, and that was good."

Phoenix coach John MacLeod said it was difficult for the Suns to play catchup after falling behind in the first quarter. "We got behind and then we had to get a good effort, and it was just too much," he said.

"We just can't seem to get going," MacLeod said. "We can't seem to come out and get the easy baskets that we at one time were getting."

MacLeod said Nance "played as we expected considering he's beeen out since the February 22. Obviously, he showed the effects of the conditioning, or lack of, but overall he didn't do bad."

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