PHOENIX (AP) Steve Nash hit a crucial driving layup, then made two free throws for the deciding points and the Phoenix Suns bolstered their playoff hopes with an intense 93-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
There were 24 lead changes in the Suns’ 10th straight win over the Clippers in Phoenix.
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.
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 andSebastian Telfair both scored 13.
The Clippers fell one game behind the first-place Lakers in the Pacific Division with the Lakers holding the tiebreaker.
Phoenix’s Robin Lopez was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul on Griffin with 6:14 to play.
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.
Referees in the loosely officiated game reviewed the play before confirming the call, then added a technical against the Clippers’ Mo Williams for shoving Lopez after the play. Telfair made the free throw on the technical, then Griffin sank one of two free throws to give Los Angeles a 78-75 lead.
It stayed close the rest of the way.
Paul made two free throws, then Nash sank the driving layup to tie it at 88 with 1:15 remaining.
In a rare move, point guards Nash and Telfair played together down the stretch. That allowed Telfair to defend Paul.
With the game tied at 88, Paul missed a jumper with Telfair in his face. Telfair found Gortat for a breakaway. He missed the dunk but was fouled by Randy Foye. Gortat, though, made just one of two free throws to put Phoenix ahead 89-88 with 48.4 seconds to go.
Paul made two more from the line with 42.5 seconds to go to put the Clippers ahead 90-89. After a timeout, Nash was fouled by Martin on a drive to the lane and made both free throws, giving Phoenix a 91-90 lead with 25.9 seconds left, the game’s 24th lead change.
Telfair knocked the ball out of the hands of a driving Paul with 7.7 seconds to play. On the subsequent out of bounds play, the Clippers had to call a timeout, their last of the game, as Telfair denied Paul the pass.
After Williams’ long 3-pointer rimmed in and out, Frye made two free throws with 2 seconds to go and Griffin couldn’t connect from the top of the key at the buzzer.
Neither team led by more than four points until the Clippers mounted an 11-2 run to go up 67-58 with 3:54 to play. The run ended on Paul’s free throw following a technical foul against Dudley, who fouled Griffin, then chest-bumped the Clippers’ forward in a face-to-face confrontation after the whistle.
Notes: The Suns’ Grant Hill missed his third straight game after an aborted two-game comeback from a procedure to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. … The Clippers last won in Phoenix on April 17, 2007. … The Clippers’ only losses in their previous 15 games were to the Lakers on April 4 and Memphis on April 9. … The Clippers’ five-game winning streak was one shy of their season high. … Nash needs four assists to pass Oscar Robertson for fifth on the NBA career list.