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Suns nip Clippers, cling to 8th playoffs spot


PhilBoxing.com




LOS ANGELES -- It was tighter than spandex, much closer than a local election. But after 24 lead changes and 19 ties, the Phoenix Suns subdued the high-flying Clippers from Los Angeles, 93-90, Thursday night at the US Airways Center in Phoenix.

Actively in the hunt for a playoffs spot in the hotly-contested Western Conference, the Suns needed this triumph like a breath of fresh air. With an improved won-lost slate of 33-30, the Suns currently have the 8th and final playoffs ticket in the West.

But Utah, which logs an identical 33-30 record but loses a tiebreaker to Phoenix, is breathing down the Suns' necks with three games to go in this lockout-shortened regular season. The Houston Rockets were in the playoffs race this past week, but six straight losses have seriously derailed their postseason hopes.

"What a game!" an obviously ecstatic Suns head coach Alvin Gentry exhaled after the final horn. "We kept hanging in, hanging in and found a way to pull it out in the end," he said.

Down nine points and their offense sputtering, the Suns trailed for most of the game. But they soldiered on, played some shutout defense in the end, before sinking crucial free throws to seal the deal.

Steve Nash, who finished with 13 points and six assists, gave Phoenix a 91-90 lead with a pair of free throws in the final 25.9 seconds of play. The Clippers had two chances to tie or make the go-ahead basket in the ensuing play, but Chris Paul's jumper was blocked by Sebastian Telfair while Mo Williams missed from beyond the arc.

A fight for the loose ball resulted in a foul that sent Suns forward Channing Frye to the free throw stripe, where he calmly sank both freebies for the final tally. Griffin heaved a desperate 3 with a second to go but it bounced in front of the rim.

Jared Dudley led the Suns with 18 points while Frye drilled 16. Center Marcin Gortat was a beast --- 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Phoenix shot 33-of-74 from the field (44.6 percent), 9-of-24 from 3-point land (37.5 percent) and 18-of-24 from the free throw lane (75 percent). The Clippers, meanwhile, sank 37-of-83 shots (44.6 percent), 5-of-16 treys (31.2 percent) and 11-of-17 free throws (54.7 percent).

Chris Paul, aka CP3, led the Clips with 19 points and 10 assists while the free-wheeling, hard-dunking Griffin finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Caron Butler chipped in 17. (Jose Roberto Meza).


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Jose Roberto Meza.


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