The Phoenix Suns, in a fierce battle for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, got a big win over a red hot L.A. Clippers team, in a heated battle for the Pacific Division Title themselves. In a game that featured 24 lead changes, Steve Nash hit a driving layup to put the Suns ahead for good in a 93-90 win.
”It wasn’t our type of game, really and it wasn’t a clean game by either team,” Nash said after the Suns’ 10th straight home win over the Clippers. ”We found a way to hang around when we could have gone south a lot of moments tonight. But we hung in there and found a way to just scrap and claw – you know, big win.”
It was only the third loss in the last 16 games for the Clippers who are one game behind the Lakers for the third spot in the Western Conference and first place in the Pacific Division. A win against the Suns would have put them in a tie. The Clippers have three games left, tonight at home against New Orleans and on the road next week at Atlanta and New York.
Phoenix is now in a dead heat with the Utah Jazz for the eighth spot. The Suns have Denver on Saturday, then a huge game at Utah on Tuesday, before finishing on Wednesday with San Antonio. Houston is also still in the hunt, one game back of the Suns and Jazz. They lost a big overtime game to New Orleans on Thursday.
Blake Griffin had 16 points but only 2 after the first quarter. He was sent sprawling to the floor on a flagrant foul by Robin Lopez that Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro did not appreciate.
”I thought it was dirty. He is trying to take him down,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”The league has got to do something to protect this kid. We can only get so many technical fouls. We can only do so many things and guys are taking shots at him. It is getting bad. The kid is in pain right now.”
”I was just going for the ball,” Lopez insisted. ”He got by me and I was just trying to go for the ball and he got a bit farther and I tried to go for his arms. It was what it was. It is my job to protect the rim. I tried to go for his arms.
”People have kind of called Phoenix soft in the past. Tonight I think we showed we can do a good job of being the aggressor, especially near the end.”