LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles Clippers went too comfortable against the NBA chiefs, the Phoenix Suns, and it almost cost them.
With a 39-point lead in the third quarter, the Clippers survived an offensive by Phoenix’s bench in the fourth and hung on for a 113-109 win on Wednesday night.
Norman Powell scored 24 points after two months out and Paul George added 19 points in three quarters to exceed 15,000 in his career for the Clippers.
“You can never rest in the NBA,” said Clippers coach Tyrone Lew. “The players are great, the coaches are great, and things like this can happen as soon as you let your guard down.”
With nothing at stake, Phoenix rested All-Star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul and fellow starters Deandre Ayton and Jay Crowder on the second night of back-to-back. The Sons had already set a franchise record for wins in the season with 63 in the first season, taking the Lakers out of the playoff race on Tuesday.
The Clippers beat the Suns by three quarters. But Phoenix’s reserves put together a 48-point fourth quarter and then timed out.
Sons coach Monty Williams said, “It’s a great lesson to watch on our team and any kid, you play it.” “We just lived with it and there was sans grit.”
Cameron Payne came back and hit a 3-pointer that drew Sun under four runs with 10 seconds remaining. Amir Coffey was fouled and both made free throws to secure the win.
Ish Wainwright scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Phoenix. Aaron Holiday added 16 points and Bismac Biombo had 14 points and 12 rebounds. The only starter in the double digits was Payne with 13 points. The Sons Bench put the Clippers Reserve ahead 66-58.
“When you have games like this, you get to know who the guy is that you might be able to throw at a big game,” Williams said. “You build that confidence in games like these.”
George and Powell were playing together for the first time this season, but they quickly synced up to help the Clippers win for a third time in a row. They are in eighth place for next week’s Western Conference play-in tournament.
George has played five of the six matches since returning from the torn UCL. Pavel has missed 21 games due to a leg injury. He played just three games with the team before getting injured shortly after the takeover in a trade from Portland.
“Playing with PG still didn’t feel real to me,” Powell said. “I watched him grow up. Early in my career he gave me some words of encouragement that stayed with me.
George scored 10 of his team’s first 14 points to start the game. Powell first came late in the first quarter and hit a jumper.
They started the second quarter together. Powell hit a 3-pointer and a jumper back-to-back, then George found him for another 3-pointer as part of a 22-0 run.
“We just tried to play each other,” George said. “The biggest thing for me was to play with the ball and let Norm get comfortable. He is a big time playmaker and scores runs with the ball.”
The Sun’s first point didn’t come until 6:49, when former Clippers Landry Schmet hit a 3-pointer.
The Clippers entered halftime with a 60-31 lead in the second to lead Surya 34-9.
Ivica Zubac had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers.
Sons: His 31 points in the first half were the lowest allowed by the Clippers in half of this season. … JaVale McGee led a rolling, gibberish crowd into the tunnel before the Sun warmed the court. … The Jenner sisters, Kylie and Kendall, who date Booker, sat in front of the team bench.
Clippers: Split season series, 2-2. … a moment of silence was held for Twice of the Year NBA coach Jean Shu, who had two separate stints guiding the Clippers. He died earlier this week at the age of 90. … Hall of Famer and Clippers executive Jerry West posed at halftime with Grammy nominee Sauvette, who wore bright pink hair. … Hall of Famer Scotty Pippen sitting in front of the court.
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George considered becoming the 16th active player with at least 15,000 career points.
“I’m just a kid who literally came from the desert,” he said, referring to his high desert hometown of Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. “Every time I touch the floor, especially because of injuries, I’m always grateful for the opportunity.”
He added, “Hopefully I will be able to cross the 20,000 milestone and the 30,000 milestone.”
Sun: Visit Utah on Friday.
The Clippers: Host Sacramento on Saturday in the first game of back-to-back.
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