By DAVID BRANDT – AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) – Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have become some of the best pitchers in the league. That’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 wins ahead of any other NBA team this season.
Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 as a three-quarter lead as they beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.
As usual, Paul, 36, was the maestro who made big plays in the dying minutes to shut down the Clippers. He scored a crucial 3 points and had five assists in the fourth quarter.
“The biggest problem with some teams is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to on the last row,” said Paul. “I think we have a good idea. We know what we’re going to do. The games are.
The Suns edged Golden State for the league’s best record. They have won three straight wins and four out of five. That’s despite several players missing a lot of time this season, including All-Star goaltender Devin Booker.
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“I just think the players have done a really good job promoting our culture,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “We have an unreal guard game, which really helps. “
Paul continues to look like he’s 26 instead of 36, doing anything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite. His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular season NBA game.
Cam Johnson added 24 points, a career-high, and Jalen Smith – the second-year forward whose playing time increased significantly recently due to the Suns’ COVID-19 issues – had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
“We have a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”
Those performances helped make up for a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 out of 7 on 3 points.
Williams said center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee all approved the league’s COVID-19 protocols but were kept out of the game as they got back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in protocol.
The Clippers fell below 0.500 to 19-20 despite a season high of 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers missed guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, as well as the Ivica Zubac center, because of COVID -19 protocols.
“We scratched and competed,” said Clippers coach Ty Lue. “It’s a good ball club out there and they played well. Their stars took over on the stretch and got back into play.”
The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers pulled it down to 73-66 within minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead in the final quarter.
The Clippers shot 79-76 with 8:36 remaining as Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the following six points and slowly walked away.
The Suns took a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.
Suns: F Bismack Biyombo was in his third game for the Suns and his first at home. The 11-year-old veteran was signed last week because the Suns were thin in the frontcourt. He finished with three rebounds in 13 minutes. … The Suns have recorded 63 rebounds, a season high.
Clippers: G Brandon Boston Jr. was back on the field after spending time in COVID-19 protocol. … LA only shot 3 of 18 (17%) to 3 points in the first half.
Clippers: Host Memphis on Saturday.
Suns: Host Miami Saturday night
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