Reporting from Phoenix
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
They didn't go easily, however. And that, more than a rare two-game winning streak, is probably the best evidence that this Clippers team may be ready to break from the dismal editions of the past.
Down by 25 points in the first period, the Clippers cut the deficit to four midway through the third quarter. Down by 13 with less than 21/2 minutes to play, they came within two possessions of forcing overtime.
Rather than giving up, these Clippers nearly tied it up.
"We're not quitters," Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "When you quit, that's when you fail."
Just don't label this one a moral victory though. Those, Griffin said, don't count in the standings.
"I don't believe in that all," he whispered while icing down both his legs in the Clippers' silent locker room. "We got beat. At the end of the day we lost."
What you can call it is a learning experience, one of many the youthful Clippers figure to endure this season.
"We're learning every day we're so young," said Griffin, at 21 the oldest of three rookies in the Clippers' starting lineup. "Even in practice or shootarounds we learn something. And that has to be our mentality moving forward. We have to keep learning every day."
Friday the Clippers learned that giving up 42 points in the first quarter is not a good idea. And they also learned that old guys can sometimes be hard to keep up with. At least at first.
Veteran Jason Richardson, who was playing in the NBA while five Clippers were still in grade school, poured in 17 points as Phoenix outscored the visitors 42-17 in the first 11 minutes. Griffin, meanwhile, was on the bench with more turnovers (three) and fouls (two) than field goals (one).
But while the 29-year-old Richardson managed just 12 points the rest of the way, Griffin came on to finish with 20 and a game-high 14 rebounds, giving him his sixth double-double in eight games.
And teammate Eric Gordon had a season-high 32, most of it coming in the second half.
"We played hard and we brought the lead all the way back down. We just need to have a better first quarter," said Gordon when asked what he learned.
"I like the way we grinded it out," Del Negro summed up.
Eric Bledsoe did not play in the second half after sustaining a high ankle sprain. X-rays were negative and his status for Sunday afternoon's game with Utah is uncertain, but with Baron Davis out indefinitely because of a sore left knee and Randy Foye slowed by a tender hamstring, the Clippers are painfully thin at guard.
Foye was on the court for a season-low 4:42 minutes Friday after playing five minutes in the Thanksgiving Day win over Sacramento and Del Negro isn't sure when he'll be at full strength.
"We've got some point guard issues right now that we kind of have to take care of," Del Negro said.