The Phoenix Suns have delivered their best and most complete two-way performance for quite some time, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 112-95 at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday night.
Phoenix opened up a 15-point lead by the end of the first and never looked back, with superstar Devin Booker leading the way as he continues to push an early case for MVP.
The Phoenix Suns went about reaffirming their status as Western Conference contenders, claiming a wire-to-wire 17-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The first half was the most complete display Phoenix have produced this season, giving everyone a reminder of their capacity as the best regular-season team in 2021-22. The Clippers may have been lethargic on the second night of a back-to-back, but this was a locked in Suns outfit led by Mikal Bridges’ job on Clippers star Paul George.
Offensively, Booker was on a heater early with 14 points in the first eight minutes. Perhaps most importantly, Monty Williams didn’t fall into the trap of Ty Lue’s small-ball lineups, backing Deandre Ayton and Jock Landale to punish the Clippers inside. The Australian, in particular, was excellent in a position where other centers would get run off the floor, recording six points and five rebounds in just over nine first half minutes.
The Suns bench wasn’t overwhelmingly fantastic, but they found a way to make timely plays and shots in a way they hadn’t over the first two games. Torrey Craig, Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet each hit a three in the first half to extend the Phoenix lead to 19 halfway through the second.
That lead was maintained and even lifted to 20 by half time, that despite a push from the Clippers once Kawhi Leonard entered the game for the first time. The Suns shot 41% (9-for-22) from three in the first half, while also keeping Los Angeles to below 40% from the field overall.
The Clippers desperation was on display when Leonard started the second half, with their intensity cleared elevated on both sides of the ball. Phoenix’s didn’t waver though, coming up with some hustle plays and timely baskets to keep the Clippers at arm’s length.
After horrific three-point shooting in the first half, the Clippers found a hot stretch where they made four of six, reducing the margin to 10 with a few to play. Yet Phoenix hung steady and although the next nine or ten minutes weren’t pretty, their defensive grit meant Los Angeles was never able to land a decisive punch to make the game interesting.
Booker put the finishing touches on another sublime performance with 35 points on 13-for-21 shooting, while the Phoenix bench produced their best outing of the season as Shamet, Craig, Landale and Payne each finished with at least eight points.
Bridges was quiet offensively, but his work defensively can’t go unnoticed. After a 40-piece against the Kings the night before, George finished with just 16 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Phoenix as a team held the Clippers to 28.1% (9-for-32) from three, while shooting 35.7% (15-for-42) themselves in what was really the difference in the ball game.
The Suns now head home for a battle with another Western Conference contender, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.