Suns Flatten Already Flat Clippers, 134-108 : Pro basketball: Even though Barkley takes one on the chin, this was an early-round knockout.
Bill Fitch knew there would be nights like this when he was hired to coach the Clippers last summer.
Fitch watched his team fall behind the Phoenix Suns by 36 points in the third quarter on the way to their fifth consecutive defeat, 134-108, Saturday night before an announced crowd of 10,693 at the Sports Arena.
“We were as flat as a barrel of broken bottles,” Fitch said. “And we played a team that was not (flat). We were a step behind and our shot selection went from bad to worse.
“That was a long night. If you ever wanted a power outage, it would have been a good night to have it.
“We’ll be right back here (today) at 1 o’clock for practice because we play (the Lakers) at 1 o’clock Monday. It’s a tough schedule, I understand that. But I don’t have much patience with the type of play we had tonight.”
All-Star forward Charles Barkley, who averaged 24.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists in his last five games, had 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Barkley went to the locker room with 2:46 left in the first quarter to have three stitches to close a cut on his chin.
He returned with 6:57 left in the second quarter with a bandage over his chin, but the Suns could have given Barkley the second half off after taking a 28-point halftime lead.
With the Suns ahead, 105-71, at the end of third quarter, Phoenix Coach Paul Westphal finally rested Barkley.
Barkley, who looked as though he was toying with the Clippers at times, took rookie forward Lamond Murray to school, talking trash to Murray after dunking over him in the first quarter.
Murray, who had a season-high 30 points in the Clippers’ 31-point loss at Phoenix on Nov. 23, didn’t score in the first half, missing all four shots he took. He finished with 17 points, but missed 10 of 17 shots and gave away three turnovers as the Clippers committed 24 turnovers, one shy of their season-high.
Former Clipper Danny Manning, playing against the Clippers for the fourth time since he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Dominique Wilkins last February, had 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Suns (27-8) won for the 16th time in their last 19 games.
Making his first appearance at the Sports Arena since leaving the Clippers, Manning made a spectacular dunk of a missed free throw by Barkley with 3:20 left in the third quarter, flying over several Clippers.
“I expected to be booed,” Manning said. “A lot of players that have played here in the past have come back and gotten booed. It’s just the nature of the game.
“The one thing that I will say is that when I was here I played hard every night and I take pride in that.
“There’s not been a personality change for me. I’m still the same person, I’m just playing on a different team.”
The Suns’ second team featuring Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Wayman Tisdale and Manning is a lot better than the Clippers’ starting lineup. The Suns’ reserves outscored the Clippers, 80-54.
Majerle had 22 points, 14 in the first half, making five of seven three-point shots, and Ainge added 18.
“We don’t have a regular second team,” Manning said. “That’s a potent unit.”
Clipper guards Pooh Richardson and Terry Dehere combined to miss 10 of 14 shots. Richardson missed two of four shots and Dehere missed eight of 10 shots.
It might have been worse, but Sun guard Kevin Johnson sat out the game with a bruised knee.
Elliot Perry, who started in place of Johnson, had 15 points.