Happy New Year!
Before Monday night’s game against the Suns, we threw out some New Year’s resolutions to choose from:
Happy New Year! The Clippers return home to host the Suns tonight. What is your favorite Clippers resolution?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) January 2, 2017
The LA Clippers got off to a good start in 2017 as they defeated the Phoenix Suns wire-to-wire, ultimately winning 109-98 after leading by as many as 19 points. It was LA’s first win since December 22, and their first win against a team with a losing record since December 20 – 4 of LA’s 6 consecutive losses came against Western Conference teams under .500.
Top Performer: I’m going with PG Raymond Felton, who started in place of injured PG Chris Paul. Felton didn’t have a perfect game by any means, as he had 4 of LA’s 20 turnovers and missed 7 of his first 10 shots. But he got the Clippers through this game and led the team with 8 4th quarter points, finishing with 16 for the game. His counterpart, Suns PG Eric Bledsoe, finished the game making only 8 of 27 from the field (29.6 percent).
X-Factor: The Clippers somehow won despite the Suns attempting 23 more shots from the field than LA. That’s tied for the 3rd-largest deficit in field goal attempts in a win this season. LA was smoked once again in fastbreak points (28-9) and points off turnovers (23-11). But the Clippers attempted 38 free throws against the Suns for the 2nd time this season, which is the 3rd-most attempts in a game this season for LA. The Clippers made 28 of those attempts, and LA is now 9-0 this season when they make at least 26 FTs this season – and Monday night’s win was the first of those 9 wins in a game that the Clippers didn’t have CP3 or Blake Griffin.
Major Moment: After SG J.J. Redick was called for a flagrant 1 in the opening minute of the 3rd quarter, Suns SG Devin Booker made 2 FTs to cut LA’s 6-point halftime lead to 64-60. The Clippers would spend the next 10 minutes shutting the Suns down and outscoring them 25-10 to take their largest lead of the game at 19. The catalyst for the run? How about PF Luc Mbah a Moute! While the Suns were missing 16 of 21 shots during this stretch (23.8 percent), Mbah a Moute had a layup, three-point play, made a three, and split another pair of FTs for 9 of his 13 points. The Clippers only attempted 2 threes during this stretch, and they attempted only 16 for the game – tying a season low set on Halloween against the Suns.
Key Lineup: The Suns were burned when they had an all-bench lineup of PG Brandon Knight, SG Leandro Barbosa, SF P.J. Tucker, rookie PF Dragan Bender, and C Alex Len on the floor for 5 minutes – that lineup was outscored 21-11 while compiling a -94.4 net rating. This was the first time this season that Doc Rivers started Felton, Redick, SF Austin Rivers, Mbah a Moute, and C DeAndre Jordan together, and that unit outscored Phoenix 29-22 in 13 minutes, compiling a net rating of 35.9 on the strength of 30.8 percent shooting allowed.
The Definition: A win is a win, and the Clippers were losing to teams like the Suns on a regular basis. It was good for them to see Redick (team-high 22 points) and Jamal Crawford (bench-high 18 points) produce and make a combined 16-of-32 from the field – Redick had made only 38.6 percent of his FGs in his previous 4 games, while Crawford made only 17.2 percent of his FGs in his previous 3 games. And while Jordan still isn’t getting touches (3-of-6 FGs) and picked up another technical foul, his 20 rebounds (7 offensive) were crucial for a Clippers team that had 20 turnovers Monday night.