Paint Job: Aggressive Clippers Pound Suns

(AP Photo/Matt York)

From the opening tip Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers certainly didn’t look like a team ready to start making tee times and mid-summer vacation plans.

When the dust settled at Talking Stick Resort Arena, the Clips walked off the floor with a convincing 116-102 win behind Paul George’s game-high 41 points on 15-20 shooting. He also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and dished out a team-high six assists.

“The desperation has to be there,” a blunt Monty Williams said after the game. “That’s the deal. Their competitive edge was consistent for 48 minutes…they played desperate.”

Phoenix’s defense had no answer inside as the Clippers outscored the hosts 58-32 in the paint and committed just nine turnovers with their playoff lives teetering on the brink. 

LA raced out to an 18-5 lead midway through the first quarter when Williams saw enough, calling timeout as the sold out crowd sat stunned in downtown Phoenix. The main nemesis was Marcus Morris who consistently took the undersized Devin Booker down to the block and scored almost at will, both in the paint and from the baseline. 

The Clips took a 36-26 lead into the second quarter, paced by Morris’ 13 and Reggie Jackson’s 12 first quarter points.

Phoenix found their offensive groove midway through the second quarter. Cam Johnson’s corner three-pointer in front of the LA bench pulled the Suns to 44-42 with 7:16 to play until halftime. 

The teams exchanged baskets as Williams’ team struggled to find the defensive grit which willed them to a tough Game 4 win at Staples Center. 

Booker’s three-pointer at the second quarter horn pulled Phoenix to within 59-52 at intermission but the Suns’ offered little defensive resistance, specifically against Morris who poured in 20 first half points on 8-10 shooting from the field, including 2-3 from behind the arc.

Phoenix showed signs of life early in the second half, fighting back to take a brief one-point lead on Paul’s free throw line jumper but the Suns had no answer for George who seemed to score at will against the smaller matchups. He had 31 points through three quarters on 12-16 shooting.

The second-seed showed flashes of getting back in the game but George and Jackson had an offensive answer for every Phoenix spurt.

“They came out, they punched us in the face at the start of the game,” Booker said summing up the loss. “We need to be locked in from the beginning to end.”

Booker scored 31 points (9-22 shooting), while Paul had 22 points and eight assists. Cam Johnson was exceptional off the bench with 14 points. Deandre Ayton scored 10 and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Williams expects a different result Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

“We will be better in the next game.”