Phoenix Suns doomed by slow start in loss to Clippers

PHOENIX – Still stinging after an embarrassing 37-point blowout loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons just two night earlier, the first place Phoenix Suns hoped returning home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday would help stop disappointing play plaguing the normally secure contenders for three straight defeats. But erupting out flat again by spotting LA a 16-point lead after one quarter that ballooned to 26 by halftime proved too deep a hole to rally back from, resulting in a disheartening 112-95 defeat.

“Our starts right now come nowhere near championship intensity levels needed,” Suns forward Cam Johnson lamented. “It’s easy playing from behind against great teams.”

Booker Decent But Lacks Consistent Help

Phoenix superstar Devin Booker led his squad with 24 points, but got little help aside from Mikal Bridges’ 22 as the Suns struggled shooting under 45% from the field as a team. Double-digit scorers Paul George (29 points) and Kawhi Leonard (24) meanwhile guided LA, beating Phoenix to loose balls and out-hustling for rebounds to amass a decisive 116-92 total edge.

“We need much better efforts clearing defensive glass and contesting everything,” said new addition Terence Ross who managed just 6 points against his former Clippers team. “They played way more desperate and it showed all night.”

Turnovers and Missed Opportunities Doom Suns Attempts at Comeback

Booker meanwhile sounded most frustrated over 16 giveaways off sloppy ball handling that negated potential progress clawing back within 10 points midway through the third quarter. The Clippers never relinquished command down the stretch.

“We can’t keep wasting chances and expect to beat the elite teams,” the guard noted regarding unforced errors. “Our decision-making and execution have totally faded.”

Monty Williams Sends Players Clear Message

A fiery head coach Monty Williams held no punches ripping into players over meager intensity levels after such high hopes starting 2023. Phoenix now sits closer to falling completely out of home court advantage if not fixing systemic issues immediately.

“Either pick up the urgency or pick up reduced minutes,” Williams stated plainly. “We’ll get this right because we’ve worked too hard building a winning culture to slide backwards.”

Veteran Chris Paul agreed that accountability must improve across rotations. “No excuse for this product we’re putting out lately. I believe in every player on this team to turn intensity back up.”

The Suns cannot dwell on this loss as defending champions Golden State visit the desert on Thursday before heading out on a season-defining seven game road trip. Phoenix hopes starting 2024 brings renewed focus.

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