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Clippers falter at the finish against Phoenix

On a night when L.A. shoots only 40.2% and Blake Griffin injures his left ankle, the Suns pull out a 93-88 victory.

January 24, 2013|By Broderick Turner

PHOENIX -- It was bad enough that the Clippers just couldn't make any shots, but what made it worse was that they couldn't get any defensive stops when it mattered most.

As a result, the Clippers suffered one of those bad losses, by a 93-88 score, to a Phoenix Suns team that just fired its coach and has the second-worst record in the Western Conference.

On a Thursday night at US Airways Center when the Clippers made just 40.2% of their shots, they also saw another of their All-Stars get injured.

Blake Griffin (12 points) tweaked his left ankle in the first quarter when he tripped over Goran Dragic going after an offensive rebounds. Griffin wasn't quite the same after that, limping the rest of the way.

“I really did it two days ago against Golden State,” Griffin said of his injured ankle.

“It got better, but I kind of re-tweaked it. But it's not terrible.”

The Clippers were already missing Chris Paul, who sat out for the fifth game this season because of a bruised right kneecap.

But beyond that, the Clippers just couldn't make shots.

They shot 33.3% from the field in the fourth.

“Our offense was stagnant,” said Griffin, who was five for nine from the field. “Our defense wasn't great. We just did a poor job overall. It starts with me.

“ I've got to do a better job setting a tone early and being a leader out there, especially with Chris not being there.”

Down 86-79, the Clippers scored six straight points to pull to within 86-85 with 26.9 seconds left.

Eric Bledsoe, who started in place of Paul, blocked a shot by Dragic and then passed ahead for a three-pointer by Jamal Crawford, who finished with 21 points.

The Suns called timeout.

The Clippers, needing another defensive stop, forced the Suns to call another timeout when they were unable to inbound the basketball.

Then, as soon as the Suns did inbound, Crawford fouled Phoenix center Marcin Gortat with 23.3 seconds left.

Gortat made both free throws for an 88-85 Suns lead.

Rather than go for a three-pointer, Crawford drove and was fouled.

Crawford, an 88.1% free-throw shooter, missed the first but made the second free throw, pulling the Clippers to within 88-86.

“Obviously, I missed a free throw,” Crawford said. “They got some free throws and knocked them down and we had to play catch-up at that point.”

When Caron Butler chased down Shannon Brown and fouled him, the officials looked at the replay and called it a clear-path foul, meaning Brown would have scored an easy basket.

Brown got two free throws, made them for a 90-86 Suns lead, and the Suns got the ball back.

The Clippers were on their way to a third consecutive defeat.

The Suns (15-28) are a team in disarray. They recently fired coach Alvin Gentry and replaced him with Lindsey Hunter.

But to their credit, the Suns played hard for the second consecutive game.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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