PHOENIX, ARIZ.—The return of the Phoenix Suns offense seemed to have coincided with the return of Leandro Barbosa as the Suns defeated the visiting Los Angeles Clippers 124-93.
Barbosa, seeing action for the first time since injuring an ankle 12 games ago, scored 12 points and handed out four assists in 21 minutes. “[Barbosa] changes our team; gives us a different dimension and a different look,” says Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry. “More than anything, just to be able [to have Barbosa back so we can] have our rotation back where we want them.”
Amar’e Stoudemire was one rebound short of another double-double, grabbing nine boards and leading all scorers with 26 points. Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley both had 18 points and Steve Nash had 14 points. In all, more than seven Suns players score more than 10 points, including Goran Dragic, who had 13 and Grant Hill and Barbosa with 12.
Phoenix controlled the rebounds in this game, out gaining the Clippers 45-40. Gentry’s primary concern, however, was giving up second and third shots; Los Angeles had 16 offensive rebounds. “It’s disappointing that it’s one of those things that we know that is an Achilles heel of ours. We need to do a better job and be more focused on not giving up second shots. The thing that is so bothersome is that our initial defense has been really good. First shot…we come up with a stop. Even some second shots we come up with a stop. You give a team three chances and the chances of stopping them straight times in this league is not very good. That just puts more pressure on your offense now to go down on the other end and score. I think for us it’s just really important that we complete the defensive possession and the only way to can do that is coming up with the rebound.”
Richardson, who has struggled on both ends of the court in the last few games, came up big defensively in the third quarter. Richardson had seven of his eight defensive rebounds in the third, including five on consecutive Clipper possessions.
Los Angeles was able to go up on Phoenix 18-10 early in the first period, but that was the extent of their threat. Rasual Butler led all Clippers with 22 points. Chris Kaman had 19 points. Eric Gordon and Baron Davis each had 11 points. Forward Marcus Camby played only 10 minutes due to sore knee and left without scoring on two field goal attempts. He did, have five rebounds and one assist. Blake Griffin, the overall number one pick for the Clippers and Suns player Taylor Griffin’s brother, is recovering from a knee injury and did not play. The Griffin brothers were both dressed in street clothes.
Nash had eight assists for the Suns, failing for the first time in six games to have more than 10 assists per game. Louis Amundson led all Suns players with 10 rebounds. The bench play of the Phoenix subs was spectacular; there was no comparison to the Clippers bench. The Suns bench accounted for 42 percent of the rebounds, 30 percent of the assists and 39 percent of the scoring for Phoenix.