Steve Nash was a late scratch for the Suns on Friday, after missing the morning shootaround due to flu-like symptoms, and being unable to go after trying to get through pregame warmups. Against a Clippers team that appeared as if its players have already packed their bags for the summer, however, it hardly mattered. Behind 19 points from Grant Hill and with six players in double figures, Phoenix blew past L.A. by a final of 111-98.
For much of the second half, it wasn’t that close. The Suns led by as many as 22 in the third, and by as many as 25 in the fourth before the Clippers made a purely cosmetic effort to adjust the score in garbage time.
Aaron Brooks got the start in place of Nash, and playing there alongside Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat, it was the Suns’ 17th different unit to start the game this season. Brooks was average in this one, finishing with 12 points and 6 assists in 24 minutes, but had been preparing to start since this morning.
“Well [Nash] didn’t do shootaround and said he was sick,” Brooks said. “So, mentally I was preparing for the worst just in case he didn’t come. When I saw him come in I got excited and then when I found out he couldn’t play I got into a different mindset and went out there. It felt good to finally get a win, my first one as a starter (in Phoenix).”
Zabian Dowdell played well in spurts off the bench, and finished with 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting. He also added five assists, but turned it over five times, as well.
This game was much more about the Clippers’ lack of effort and execution, though, than it was about how well the Suns played. Vinny Del Negro agreed.
“I didn’t think we had great energy tonight,” Del Negro said. “We let Phoenix run where they wanted to, when they wanted to. We shortcutted some things defensively. Offensively, we couldn’t make any shots and put any pressure on them. Phoenix is a shot-making team; we couldn’t shoot the ball well enough. We had 27 turnovers … a lot of mistakes. Just a lot of mistakes.”
Speaking of effort, you really can’t say enough about how hard Hill played for Phoenix, especially in the first half. He seemed to be running around in a gear that no one on the Clippers got close to all night, finishing acrobatically at the rim and at one point diving over the scorers table in an effort to chase down a loose ball.
Blake Griffin was the one many fans came out to see, and he didn’t disappoint, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists. He managed to throw down a few powerful dunks that drew cheers from even those in the stands wearing Suns jerseys, but Channing Frye did his best to limit the highlights, yanking Griffin down by the shorts in the first half, on a play where he was whistled for a flagrant foul after Blake fell awkwardly.
Griffin didn’t have any hard feelings afterward, and seems as though he’s resigned to the fact that this will be his fate as his NBA career continues.
“It’s happened over and over,” Griffin said of the hard fouls. “So it’s not really something I’m worried about. It happens, you’ve just got to keep playing.”
Speaking of Dunks, Jared Dudley appeared to barely get his ninth of the season on a two-handed flush early in the third. But despite the official play-by-play calling it a dunk, his teammates overruled it, the consensus being that it was more of a drop over the rim than anything else.