PHOENIX (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers have been beating just about everybody. Then came the dreaded trip to Phoenix, where they haven't' won in five years.
That streak of futility didn't end Thursday night when the Suns came away with a rough, intense 93-90 victory that bolstered their playoff hopes and dimmed the Clippers' prospects for a Pacific Division title.
Steve Nash of the Suns hit a crucial driving layup, then made two free throws for the deciding points in a game that featured 24 lead changes.
"It wasn't our type of game, really and it wasn't a clean game by either team," Nash said after the Suns' 10th straight home win over the Clippers. "We found a way to hang around when we could have gone south a lot of moments tonight. But we hung in there and found a way to just scrap and claw — you know, big win."
Chris Paul, who had 10 assists, scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half of just the third loss in 16 games for the Clippers, who had won five straight. Caron Butler added 19 points for the Clippers, while Blake Griffin scored 16 points, only two after the first quarter.
Griffin was sent to the court on a flagrant foul by Robin Lopez with 6:14 to play and said afterward that his neck was very sore.
"I thought it was dirty. He is trying to take him down," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "The league has got to do something to protect this kid. We can only get so many technical fouls. We can only do so many things and guys are taking shots at him. It is getting bad. The kid is in pain right now."
Jared Dudley scored 18 points and Channing Frye had 16 for the Suns, who moved into a tie with Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Suns have the tiebreaker against the Jazz. Marcin Gortat had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Phoenix while Nash and Sebastian Telfair both scored 13 points.
The Clippers fell one game behind the first-place Lakers in the Pacific Division with the Lakers holding the tiebreaker.
Lopez was ejected for a "flagrant foul 2'" for coming down hard on Griffin's head and neck on a layup, sending the forward crashing to the court.
"I was just going for the ball," Lopez insisted. "He got by me and I was just trying to go for the ball and he got a bit farther and I tried to go for his arms. It was what it was. It is my job to protect the rim. I tried to go for his arms.