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Clippers run past Suns, finally reach 50-win mark

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Stuck in neutral for three games, the 50-win plateau looking more like Mount Whitney, the Los Angeles Clippers were growing tired and frustrated.

A 15-0 run to start their game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at Staples Center brought some smiles.

A 33-10 run in the third quarter brought a few more.

A 25-point win even elicited a laugh or two.

And a franchise record.

The Clippers jolted Phoenix early then took off in the second half to seal a 126-101 victory, the team's franchise-high 50th.

"It's a big step for us, never having been done here," Blake Griffin said. "We feel like we could do much better and we feel like we could have been a 60-win team. It's something to be proud of, but the work doesn't stop there."

Two days after coming out flatter than a sheet of paper in a three-point loss to Indiana, the Clippers found their energy in a flash, sprinting to a 15-0 lead in the game's first four minutes.

That sheet of paper? It was a stat sheet, crumpled up and tossed by Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter before addressing the media after lashing into his team for an extended period.

"I don't think they ran an offensive play the first three minutes, and they went up what, 15-zip?" Hunter said. "We have to do a better job of coaching effort I guess, do a better job of getting the guys to play in the beginning. To come out and give up 15 points without them executing one single play is embarrassing."

Phoenix cut into the Los Angeles advantage throughout the first and second quarter, trimming the lead to as little as two with 2:30 left in the second quarter.

Then the Clippers came out of the halftime locker room on fire once more, using a 33-10 midway through the third quarter to bury the Suns.

"They came out ready, we didn't; simple as that," Phoenix forward Michael Beasley. "I feel like, aside from our terrible start, the first half wasn't too bad, seven points. But they came out (in the third quarter) like a playoff team. They came out ready to kill and we came out lackadaisical."

Added Hunter: "When you put them in situations where they can do that, that's what they do. Everybody's seen them play. You've seen the highlights. We all know. That's what happens. If you don't do what you're supposed to do, that's what happens."

After a forgettable zero-point, five-rebound performance in the Clippers' home loss to the Pacers, DeAndre Jordan delivered against the Suns.

DeAndre Jordan had 20 points to lead six Clippers in double figures and added 12 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe had 17 points off the bench for Los Angeles and Chris Paul, Willie Green and Caron Butler each had 15 points.

The Suns also had six players in double figures, but they shot just 46 percent from the field to the Clippers' 56 percent. Wes Johnson had 20 points and Jermaine O'Neal had 18 points for Phoenix, which was doomed by 19 turnovers.

"We played fast, we got the tempo up, we got some stops," Paul said. "Once again, this was one of those games where our defense created our offense. We got steals, forced 19 turnovers and we had only six ourselves. That's how we play most of the time when we've won games."

NOTES: Chauncey Billups (groin) remains day-to-day for the Clippers. ... Channing Fry (enlarged heart) and Marcin Gortat (foot) remain out for the Suns. ... Phoenix won the last game of the season series, 93-88, on Jan. 24 in Phoenix but the Clippers still lead the season series 2-1. Los Angeles defeated the Suns twice in December after going just 1-3 against Phoenix in 2011-12 despite finishing seven games ahead in the standings. ... All three of the Suns' wins over the Clippers last year were comebacks of nine or more points. ... The Clippers are zeroing in on their first division title, which would leave the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats as the lone NBA teams without division titles. ... Los Angeles' Grant Hill was a long time member of the Suns and is the only two-time winner of the team's Dan Majerle hustle award. ... Matt Barnes and Del Negro also played for the Suns. ... Phoenix entered the game on a 5-12 streak but a surprising 4-4 record against above-.500 teams and a more surprising 1-8 record against teams under .500. ... Los Angeles entered the game three wins shy of the team record for home wins (30) in a season. ... Phoenix has won 10 games under Hunter since he assumed the head coaching gig on Jan. 20; the combined record of the Suns' opponents in the 10 wins is 391-333.
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