Nash, Frye lead Suns past Clippers 108-99By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Mar 20, 2011
Frye hit two of his five 3-pointers in the final minutes of his second game back from a dislocated right shoulder for the Suns, who have won 10 of their last 11 meetings with the Clippers.
Although Nash and Frye starred, the Suns all awarded a badge of courage to Gortat. The Polish center changed the game by getting Blake Griffin(notes) to foul out on a charging call while the rookie All-Star rattled home a jaw-dropping, one-handed dunk with 4:09 to play.
“I was just standing there, and I hoped he wasn’t going to crush my face,” said Gortat, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. “I think it was a good charge. I think it was the right call.”
The revamped Suns have won back-to-back games after a four-game skid, fighting to get out of 11th place in the West after making the conference finals last season.
“The good thing is, we have a lot more games to play than some of the teams ahead of us,” said Grant Hill(notes), who played stellar defense against Eric Gordon(notes), the Clippers’ leading scorer. “Crazier things have happened.”
The win pulled Phoenix (35-33) back within two games of eighth-place Memphis (38-32) in the West playoff picture with two games in hand on the Grizzlies. Utah and Houston also are chasing Memphis and seventh-place New Orleans.
“You never know how things will bounce in this league, but we’re fighting and not giving in,” Nash said.
Nash’s outstanding performance revealed no ill effects from a trip home to Vancouver on Saturday to attend the inaugural game of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Nash is a part-owner of the MLS expansion franchise, and he banged a drum in the Empire Field stands while wearing a Whitecaps scarf and a No. 13 jersey before jetting back to Los Angeles.
The Clippers couldn’t come back after losing Griffin, who got a technical foul for holding onto the ball in disbelief after referee Steve Javie’s call. Nash’s free throw put the Suns ahead by 14 points.
“There’s nothing you can do, especially when Steve Javie makes a call,” said Chris Kaman(notes), who had 21 points and 11 rebounds while starting for DeAndre Jordan(notes), who sat out with pneumonia. “He’s the head official. It’s not going the other way.”
Although Griffin’s dunk didn’t go in cleanly, Suns coach Alvin Gentry still was amazed.
“That might be as impressive of a dunk as I have seen in the NBA in 23 years,” the former Clippers coach said. “I don’t care if it was a charge. … That might be the best dunk he’s had since he was in the league.”
The call finally enlivened the Staples Center crowd, which vociferously booed the Suns’ next few possessions. The Clippers scored the next five points, but Frye hit a 3-pointer with 2:26 left before adding another 3-pointer with 50 seconds to play after the Clippers had cut Phoenix’s lead to seven points.
Nash is bouncing back well from his latest stint out of uniform to rest his sore pelvis. He followed up a strong game against Golden State on Friday night with an even better effort against the Clippers, only missing his first triple-double since April 2006 because he couldn’t get any rebounds in the second half.
“You know Steve, and you can see what he brings when he has that bounce,” Gentry said. “You can see when he’s healthy, and Channing is out there, we’re a lot better. … This kind of keeps us in the (playoff) chase a little bit. It’s obviously a long shot.”
Phoenix played without backup point guard Aaron Brooks(notes), who served a one-game suspension for hitting an official with the ball during the Suns’ win over Golden State on Friday night. Zabian Dowdell(notes) scored six of his eight points in relief of Nash early in the fourth quarter.
Mo Williams(notes) had 18 points and seven assists as the Clippers played without Jordan, who spent the night in Marina Del Rey hospital after Saturday’s win over Cleveland with what the team called a mild case of pneumonia. The shot-blocking center was released from the hospital during the game.
“I thought our effort was better today than yesterday, but our execution wasn’t (good) enough,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We have to outrebound teams and outwork teams, and we did statistically in some areas, but overall they made us pay because Steve is so good. He’s seen all the different coverages.”
NOTES: Jordan hadn’t missed a game this season. Griffin, Ryan Gomes(notes) and Eric Bledsoe(notes) have appeared in all 71 games for Los Angeles. … The Suns will stay in town to play the Lakers on Tuesday.