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Clippers can't finish it

PHOENIX 109, CLIPPERS 107

After leading for most of the game, they lose home opener on Steve Nash's layup.

October 29, 2009|LISA DILLMAN

Calling this a must-win game -- after all, it is the Clippers' second of a long-and-winding NBA schedule -- either suggests an incredible loss of perspective or close examination of last season's 0-6 start.

Let's go with loss of perspective.

Seriously, though, the Clippers needed a win, a psychological boost after a tumultuous few days to steady their often-fragile equilibrium.

Failing to build on the promising moments from their season opener against the Lakers, the Clippers blew a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead one night later as the Phoenix Suns rallied for a 109-107 victory on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

It turned into a riveting battle down the stretch, essentially featuring the Clippers' duo of Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby vs. the Suns' dynamic point guard Steve Nash.

Nash, who had 15 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, kept countering them at every turn in the last couple of minutes and delivered the final blow, with 5.5 seconds remaining, motoring his way through traffic for a layup, making it 109-107.

That was after the Clippers' Rasual Butler's made a three-point basket with 11.9 seconds left, tying the score at 107-107.

"I told our players we played incredibly hard," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We did a lot of really good things, but they're not going to give us respect. We have to go get it. We have to come over and we've got to do the extra things to make sure we take care of these games and put them away."

Camby and Kaman combined for 45 points with Camby scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in nearly 40 minutes. For Camby, it was greatly encouraging, considering a week ago it was doubtful he would be back in time for the season opener because of his sprained left ankle.

Eric Gordon scored 16 points and Butler, coming off the bench, had 19. Baron Davis had 12 points and 12 assists.

Of the non-Nash contributions: Grant Hill had 19 points, Leandro Barbosa had 17 and Amare Stoudemire had 16.

Gordon missed the last shot for the Clippers at the buzzer, not coming close.

"The designed play was to have Eric Gordon with the ball in his hands, for sure," Dunleavy said. "It was a pick and roll. We have to do a better job at attacking the pick and roll."

This game, the Clippers' home opener, was circled as one of the more winnable ones in the early schedule. Injured rookie forward Blake Griffin, in an unfamiliar role without a basketball in his hand, did what he could, using a microphone before the game.

"What's up. Clipper Nation?" said Griffin, who made a point of thanking fans for their support, and added, "And hopefully give you a season you won't forget."

Unfortunately, it was a result for the Clippers to forget.

Two games in, they've already had a habit of fading in the fourth quarter. On Tuesday, they were trailing the Lakers by a point heading into the final quarter, and against the Suns they led by two after the third and built a seven-point lead in the fourth.

They were also damaged by a shoddy performance at the free-throw line, making 15 of 27, and Gordon and Camby were a combined six for 13 from the line.

The Clippers were quick to dismiss a report that they were interested in the Warriors' Stephen Jackson, a good friend of Baron Davis.

One official joked, saying: "I hope they're thinking of Steven Jackson, the Rams' running back."

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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