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Griffin, Paul carry Clippers past Suns

Griffin, Paul carry Clippers past Suns
Published On: Fri, Mar 31
Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers Spirit cheerleaders perform against the San Antonio Spurs in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- It wasn't big on style points, but the Los Angeles Clippers aren't judging their wins right now. They are just counting them.

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined for 60 points, and Clippers had just enough left in the tank to close out a 124-118 win over the slumping Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

The Clippers (46-31) won for the second time in as many nights and moved within one game of the idle Utah Jazz for fourth place in the Western Conference.

"We played a lot of hard for a lot of minutes (beating the Washington Wizards 133-124 on Wednesday), and you knew this would be a tough game for us," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "This was a struggle. You could see the guys trying to get it going and trying to get the energy. You look at our schedule and every game is tough right now."

Griffin scored 31 points, falling two points shy of becoming the first Clipper to score 10,000 points with the team. He hit 12 of 19 shots and added seven assists.

"I got good shots from the guys getting me open and just running the offense well. Shots were just falling," Griffin said. "Sometimes a game is going to come down to the end and we did a good job of finishing it off."

Paul had 29 points and 10 assists, and Jamal Crawford added 19 points for the Clippers, who swept all four games from Phoenix this season and have won 13 of the last 15 meetings.

"Back-to-back, all these games, Blake and I talk about pushing through and finding a way to win," Paul said. "It goes in the win column. I'm not going to look at the film and dissect too much of it. We got a win and we keep going."

With Kentucky coach John Calipari in town for the Final Four and watching his former Wildcats from a courtside seat, Devin Booker had a game-high 33 points and nine assists before fouling out, and Tyler Ulis had 16 points and 13 assists.

"Having (Calipari) here, his whole staff and a lot of my family are in town, so it was a good crowd tonight," Booker said. "A lot of teams shut down right now, but we're fighting out there. We're trying to get wins. We played a really good playoff team with a lot of good veterans and we fought the whole game but came up short."

Despite shooting 53 percent from the field, the Suns (22-54) lost their 10th straight game overall. Their 54 losses are the most in the West.

Phoenix missed 11 of 24 free throws, including four straight by TJ Warren down the stretch.

"We shot 10 less free throws and making 13 for 24, that hurt us a lot," Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. "Then Devin Booker fouling out was big. He was headed for another big night but the fouls took him out of the game."

Phoenix rallied from 12 points down in the third quarter and tied the game twice in the fourth, the last time on a Booker layup with 7:52 left. But Griffin's 3-point play started a 7-0 run and J.J. Redick drew a sixth foul on Booker with 4:45 left the Suns trailed 113-106.

"J.J. was big getting that sixth foul on Booker," Griffin said. "He had it going and we didn't really have a stop to it."

Booker knew he'd fallen for the trap. "I should have stayed down. Stay on your feet, it's simple basketball," he said.

Ulis set up Marquese Chriss (20 points) for two baskets between a bank shot of his own to cut the Los Angeles lead to 114-112 with 3:43 left. But that's as close as Phoenix got.

Booker and Chriss combined to make 10 of 14 shots in the first quarter and provided 23 of Phoenix's 35 points. The Suns shot 60 percent and Warren's tip-in with 10.4 seconds left gave them a 35-31 lead after one.

But the Clippers answered with 36 points in the second quarter, 12 of them by Griffin. The Clippers hit nine of 13 3-pointers in the first half (69 percent) and took their biggest lead when a Luc Mbah a Moute 3-pointer put them up 67-59 with 8.7 seconds left.

Los Angeles stretched its lead to 12 twice in the third period, the last time at 87-75 on another Mbah a Moute 3-pointer with 4:20 left. But the Suns scored the final nine points of the quarter and Warren's tip-in at the buzzer pulled Phoenix within a point at 93-92.

NOTES: Suns G Leandro Barbosa (right hamstring spasm) missed his third consecutive game. Phoenix signed F Jarell Eddie to a second 10-day contract on Wednesday and dressed 10 players for the game. ... Suns coach Earl Watson said he hopes to have F Dragan Bender (ankle surgery) back within the next week. ... Clippers F Blake Griffin would be the second player in franchise history to reach the 10,000-point plateau, but Randy Smith scored 10,467 of his 12,735 career points with the Buffalo Braves before the team headed to San Diego. ... Phoenix G Devin Booker's 33 points give him 2,637 career points. He passed Dwight Howard for the fourth-most points in NBA history before turning 21 years old. He trails only LeBron James (4,649), Kevin Durant (3,495), Carmelo Anthony (3,283) and Kobe Bryant (2,755).

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