Here's an original story for your holidays: the Phoenix Suns got out to a big lead early -- 25 points in the first quarter -- and then let off the gas and let their opponent, the Los Angeles Clippers, back in the game. The Suns defense held L.A. to only 21 points in the first quarter and then gave up 87 in the next three. The defensive effort by the Suns' second unit, which used to be such a positive for this team, is simply not present right now. The energy is not there and they know it.
"That's something that coach spoke to us about today. He's worried about it just like the rest of us are," guard/forward Josh Childress said after the game.
"I think it's an attitude that we need to develop and it's not there right now. We need to come out every game and try to push the tempo and just change the game a little bit and we're not doing that. We have to pick it up. We can't allow leads to slip that the first team gets."
Fortunately, the Clippers were not nearly as good as the Chicago Bulls and couldn't take advantage of the Suns' lapse and, in the end, Phoenix won the game 116-108. It was still a disappointing loss for the Suns, who should have been able to put a tired three-win team away early, but couldn't.
"It was a good start. We have some lulls and some lapses in the middle of the game but we closed it out. Right now we've been pretty up and down so we'll take it and try and build on it," Steve Nash said in his post game locker room interview.
The Suns were led by Jason Richardson, who finished with 29 points and six rebounds. Hakim Warrick continues to provide the Suns with at least some semblance of an inside presence. He had 25 points and was 13-14 from the free throw line for the Suns off the bench. Hedo Turkoglu, who tweaked his back in the Wednesday game against the Bulls, only played 15 minutes.
The Clippers got solid bench shooting from Ryan Gomes (20 points) and Brain Cook (16 points, 10 rebounds). Eric Gordon led the Clippers with 32 points and Blake Griffin was mostly held in check, thanks to Suns double teams. He finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
For more on this game and the Phoenix Suns, visit Bright Side of the Sun, SB Nation's Phoenix Suns blog.