With the Golden State Warriors' 111-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs earlier tonight, the Clippers had a chance to clinch the Pacific Division for the second straight year with a win over the Phoenix Suns. Thanks to losses by the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, Phoenix had the opportunity to get within one game of the sixth seed. The scene was set for an entertaining and intense division clash.

Although the game was fairly close during the first half, the Suns threatened to run away with the game in the third quarter, and it seemed for a moment that we were headed for a blowout similar to the one Phoenix inflicted to the Clippers in LA in late December. Although they led by as much as seventeen late in the third quarter, the Clippers bench held their ground and slowly chipped away at the lead, with help coming from several unlikely contributors.

For the second straight game, Jared Dudley got significant minutes and made huge plays for the Clippers, especially down the stretch. He hit a three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 3, then was fouled driving for a layup and hit a pair of free throws that gave the Clippers their first lead since late in the second quarter. Then with ten seconds to go and the Clippers leading by two, Dudley played excellent defense on Eric Bledsoe, who was driving for a game-tying layup, and allowed Darren Collison to block him from behind, getting the ball back for Los Angeles. He then calmly hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.

Collison also had an excellent game, putting up 23 points and 5 assists. For long stretches of the game, it seemed like he was the only Clipper who was able to consistently make shots, attacking the rim aggressively and hitting midrange jumpers. He helped spark a Clippers run late in the third quarter that marked the beginning of the comeback from 17 down, with the help of Jared Dudley and Willie Green.

The Clippers may not have even needed a comeback in the second half if they were able to contain the Suns bench in the first. Gerald Green and the Morris brothers were impossible to stop in the second quarter, hitting almost every shot they took, and accounting for 39 of the Suns' 62 points at halftime. Despite Eric Bledsoe getting into foul trouble early and mostly limiting Goran Dragic, the Suns outscored the Clippers 37-30 in the second quarter, taking a two-point lead into halftime while hitting 58% of their shots.

In the third quarter, it was the Suns' starting bigs' turn to get hot from the field. Channing Frye, who entered the game ice-cold from three (29% in the month of March), hit four long-range shots in the second half, while starting center Miles Plumlee went 6-7 on the night, including a running hook and-one over DeAndre Jordan. With Dragic and Bledsoe penetrating the defense and generating easy shots, and PJ Tucker repeatedly ripping down offensive rebounds to give the Suns second chances, Phoenix began to pull away in the third quarter as the Clippers went ice-cold from the field.

It's surprising I've gotten this far in the recap without mentioning either of the Clippers' superstars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both delivered gritty performances on the tail end of a long road trip, especially Blake, who returned after a one-game absence due to back spasms and was clearly not himself for most of the night. He played through the pain and although he became a liability on interior defense down the stretch, he also had a clutch tip-in with a minute left to put the Clippers up by 4. He finished with 23 points, including an astounding tip-slam in the first half where he put back a missed shot over a pair of Phoenix defenders and DeAndre Jordan.