PHOENIX (AP) — Goran Dragic scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half and the Phoenix Suns held on to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 93-88 on Thursday night, improving to 2-0 under interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
Marcin Gortat added 15 points, including two free throws with 23.3 seconds left. Luis Scola and Markieff Morris had 14 apiece for the Suns, who had not won two in a row since a season-high, four-game winning streak ended on Dec. 19. Dragic also had eight assists.
The Clippers, who lost their third straight, were without Chris Paul for the fifth time in seven games because of a bruised right kneecap. The team is 3-2 without him.
Jamal Crawford led Los Angeles with 21 points. Eric Bledsoe scored 15 for Los Angeles and Blake Griffin 12.
With the victory, Phoenix pulled out of the cellar in the Western Conference at 15-28 to New Orleans’ 14-28. The Clippers slipped to 32-12, 1 1/2 games behind West leaders Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The three-game losing streak is Los Angeles’ second-longest of the season.
The Suns, who won at Sacramento on Wednesday night, scored six in a row to go up 86-79 on Gortat’s layup on a pass from Dragic with three minutes left. But the Clippers reeled off the next six. Bledsoe blocked Dragic’s shot and Crawford sank a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 86-85 with 26 seconds remaining.
After Gortat’s two free throws with 23 seconds left put Phoenix up 88-85, Crawford was fouled on a drive to the basket, narrowly missing a chance at a game-tying, three-point play. Instead, Crawford, an 88 percent free throw this season, missed one of two free throws and the Suns led 88-86.
Phoenix got the inbounds pass to Shannon Brown, who was fouled on what officials ruled was a clear path to the basket. Brown made both free throws to make it 90-86 with 15.4 seconds left and the Suns retained possession. One free throw by Morris and two by Dragic wrapped up the scoring.
Hunter became the fourth coach in Suns history to win his first two games. The other three — Gentry, Scott Skiles and Jerry Colangelo — also did it as midseason replacements.
The wins came despite a rocky change of power. Earlier in the day, Elston Turner confirmed he has left the organization after being passed over to replace the fired Alvin Gentry in favor of Hunter, who was director of player development and had never coached before. Dan Majerle also left as an assistant coach after being passed over for the interim job.
Dragic scored the final nine Suns points in the first half, the last two on free throws after Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Crawford were called for technicals with .3 seconds left to put the Suns up 50-46 at the break.
Crawford scored seven straight points, the last two on a drive, to put Los Angeles ahead 62-59 with 4:17 left in the third quarter. Phoenix finished the quarter with a 6-2 spurt to lead 68-66 entering the fourth.
Notes: The Clippers lost four straight from Nov. 21 to Nov. 26. but had gone 24-5 since then. … Ex-Sun Grant Hill got a warm reception from the crowd when he entered late in the first quarter for the Clippers. … The Suns have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Clippers in Phoenix. They had won 10 straight before falling at home to the Clippers in their last meeting on Dec. 23. … Four NBA interim coaches have won their first two games this season.