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Clippers' streak reaches 13 with rout of Suns

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns got off a plane from Portland at 3 a.m. Sunday after a tough loss to the Trail Blazers. Nine hours later, the Suns found themselves in the path of a runaway train from Los Angeles.

Blake Griffin collected 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 17 points and 13 assists as the Clippers blew open a close game just before halftime and easily handled Phoenix 103-77 Sunday night for their 13th consecutive win.

Los Angeles now has the longest winning streak in the NBA this season, and the victory extended the longest winning streak in Clippers history.

Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes combined for 37 points on 13-for-19 shooting off the bench for the Clippers, who set another franchise record with their sixth straight road win. The old mark was established by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.

A five-year Clippers drought in the desert was no match for a team that is now 12-0 in December and hasn't lost since Nov. 26. The Clippers have beaten the Suns twice with ease during this streak. Sunday's victory snapped a string of 10 straight losses in Phoenix, where the Clippers' previous win was April 17, 2007.

"We're just taking care of business right now," said Griffin, who set a career high with four steals in only 32 minutes of work. "We're not really concerned with 'you haven't won here since then' or 'you haven't won this many games in a row' because we hear it all. All we care about is how we play and how we execute."

The Clippers broke open a tight and very physical game late in the first half, outscoring the Suns 11-1 in the final 3:31 -- a stint that included the ejection of Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry. Los Angeles iced the game with a 33-point third quarter, taking a 31-point lead to the final 12 minutes.

"Our defense toward the end of the half was huge," Paul said. "We were up like six, and then you look up and we're up 15. A couple of steals and one Blake got at half-court right before halftime really gave us momentum."

Jared Dudley had 19 points to lead the Suns, who matched a season low for points. Phoenix, playing without Michael Beasley (illness), lost for the second time in as many nights following a season-best, four-game winning streak.

"They took it to us, no excuses. Chris Paul took us out of our whole offense, and defensively we couldn't stop them," Dudley said. "You can't give a team like that 10 to 15 easy points and let them get going. That was on us."

Gentry was concerned about the Clippers' bench before the game, and the visitors showed why. Behind 14 points from Crawford and nine from Barnes, the Los Angeles reserves outscored Phoenix's backups 28-8 in the first half to push the Clippers in the lead to stay. With the still Suns close at 47-42 with less than four minutes left in the half, Crawford and Barnes teamed with Griffin and Paul to take over the game.

"Our starters set the tone, and I might be biased, but I think we have the best second unit around," Crawford said.

Two free throws and a put-back dunk from Barnes preceded a Crawford 3-pointer before referee Rodney Mott tossed Gentry on two quick technical fouls with 2:33 left in the second quarter. Two Paul bank shots and Griffin steal-and-dunk later, and the Clippers were up by 16. Los Angeles carried a 58-43 lead to halftime.

Gentry said he apologized to the team for his ejection. "I have to do a better job of keeping my cool in that situation," he said.

Phoenix center Marcin Gortat admitted the team didn't handle itself any better.

"At some point we stopped playing basketball, executing what we're supposed to do, and we just started wrestling and complaining and worrying about refereeing," said Gortat, who had eight points and four of Phoenix's 14 turnovers. "We made bad, bad mistakes, trying to do stuff on our own, and you're going to get punished against a team like that.

"They are just too good. They use every mistake and score on you when you're not ready to play."

NOTES: Beasley played 10 minutes in Saturday's loss at Portland before sitting out Sunday. He is averaging 10.5 points a game, and he lost his starting job to Dudley the last time the Suns and Clippers met. ... The Clippers lead the NBA in turnovers forced (17.5) and points off turnovers (22.1). "We want to use that to our advantage, but we also have to know time and score and when to be solid," coach Vinny Del Negro said. ... The Suns have had eight games decided by three points or fewer, and they are 4-4 in them. Meanwhile, the Clippers have had just one of their 26 games decided by three points or fewer (they won it). They have won 14 times by double digits, tops in the NBA. ... Former Sun Grant Hill is two to three weeks away from making his debut with the Clippers. A bone bruise to the right knee has kept the 40-year-old out all season.
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