PHOENIX — Even with Blake Griffin looking like he still wasn't 100% healthy because of back spasms and the Clippers falling into a 17-point hole in the third quarter, Los Angeles showed how much resolve it has as a team.
Griffin played through his pain, Jared Dudley played hard and Chris Paul, Matt Barnes and Darren Collison gave it their all to help the Clippers defeat the Phoenix Suns, 112-108, Wednesday night at the US Airways Center.
By winning their fourth straight game on this five-game trip, the Clippers clinched the Pacific Division, their second straight.
“It was a lot of character,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “It was a character win for us.”
And Rivers got that from all of his players.
Griffin missed the game Monday night at Minnesota after suffering a back injury during the first quarter of the Clippers' game Saturday night in Houston.
But he played 33 minutes 42 seconds, limping around at times, but still scoring 23 points.
Paul scored 20 points and made big shot after big shot. Barnes had 19 points and made hustle play after hustle play. Collison scored 23 points.
Dudley scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and played good defense.
The Clippers climbed all the way back from being down 91-74 in the third quarter to take a 110-106 lead on back-to-back baskets: a 32-foot three-pointer by Paul to beat the 24-second clock and a tip-in by Griffin.
After Eric Bledsoe scored to cut the Clippers' lead to 110-108, the game got even more tense.
Paul missed a shot, but Barnes hustled in for the rebound, forcing a jump ball between Dudley and Marcus Morris, who won the tip.
“It was just the hustle plays that we need,” said Barnes, who had six rebounds. “Everybody was making them. I just made a couple.”
Dudley met Bledsoe's out-of-control drive down the lane with a good defensive play.
As Bledsoe lay on the court, half his body out of bounds, the ball fell on top of him for another Suns turnover with 10.9 seconds left.
“I went up straight up on Bledsoe,” Dudley said.
Dudley finished off his solid play by making two free throws with 8.1 seconds left for the final margin.
“For me, this is how I envisioned it from the beginning,” Dudley said. “Now I'm finally where I need to be. I'm glad [Rivers] left me in. When you hit shots and when you do little things, it shows up.”
Though Jamal Crawford missed his second consecutive game with a sore left Achilles' tendon injury and won't play again the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night at Staples Center, Rivers did have some good news perhaps.
J.J. Redick, who has been out for 25 consecutive games with a bulging disk in his back, might play against Dallas.
“There's a 50-50 chance,” Rivers said. “OK, go ahead and say 75%.”