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Frank Vogel gives short answers after Suns’ 105-92 loss to Clippers

Phoenix Suns coach Frank Vogel has called multiple losses in the past month “embarrassing” and “unacceptable,” but last night’s 105-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers might have easily been the cherry on top.

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“I didn’t sense anything prior to the game,” Vogel said after Phoenix’s regular season home finale. “I felt very confident we were going to win this basketball game.”

At one point in the first quarter, Phoenix was down 35-4 (!) and finished the period shooting an abysmal 2-for-19 from the floor. The Suns then trailed by as many as 37 multiple times in the second quarter and were down 66-33 at the half.

For what was deemed to be “Fan Appreciation Night,” there was not much at all for the fans to appreciate from the Suns’ performance.

“We got our a– kicked in the first half,” Vogel said. “We got to be better.”

This loss was all with the Clippers missing Kawhi Leonard and James Harden due to injury. All of the other defining losses over the past few weeks have come against teams missing star players to injuries: a 140-129 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 17 without Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 104-102 loss to the San Antonio Spurs without Victor Wembanyama on March 25 and a 128-103 blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder March 29 without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Suns also lost 113-105 to the New Orleans Pelicans without Brandon Ingram one game before last night, but showed a good amount of effort then.

However, moving to yesterday’s game, the Suns had to win to remain in the sixth seed and away from the play-in. Now, with only three games left, Phoenix is back to the No. 7 seed, one game behind New Orleans, who they do fortunately own the head-to-head tiebreaker over.

So why did Phoenix perform this badly in a game of this importance?

“We didn’t play well enough in the first quarter, we didn’t execute,” Vogel said.  “When we did, we didn’t make shots. And when we got down, we started pressing. And it’s snowballed.”

And what was the reason for this awful play in the first quarter?

“Our offensive toughness,” Vogel said. “We got to compete for spots and play through physicality better than we have. Not just in his game and in recent games, teams want to get into us and reroute us and foul us. That’s playoff basketball game. Offensively, we got to be tougher.”

Overall Performance

The 92 total points were a season low for Phoenix, as was a 33.7% field-goal percentage. The Clippers outrebounded them 63-38, the most rebounds the Suns have let up in a game this season. Phoenix, additionally, only had 17 assists on 30 made shots.

Booker ended with 12 points, but finished shooting 1-for-11 overall. Grayson Allen, the NBA’s best 3-point shooter percentage-wise, was 0-for-8 from deep, one game after he went 0-for-6 from downtown in the second half against New Orleans.

“We lost the game,” Vogel said. “We got to turn the page to tomorrow.”

The Suns play the Clippers again tonight, this time in Los Angeles. Vogel did not elaborate on the message he gave to his team, but when asked about the accountability in the locker room, Vogel said, “They want to win tomorrow.”

Phoenix cut the deficit all the way down to seven in the fourth quarter and if they had come all the way back, it would have been the largest comeback in NBA history.

The Suns elected to start Royce O’Neale over Drew Eubanks in the second half, which paid off with this comeback. Eubanks was the starting center for the game, as Jusuf Nurkić was out due to a right ankle sprain.

“We have a comeback strategy that’s effective for us,” Vogel said. “I don’t want to get into all the details, but it’s bigger and deeper than just playing five 3-point shooters. But that’s where it begins.”

L.A. improved to 3-0 this season against Phoenix entering tonight’s matchup, and all three wins have not even been close.

“My team understood the message that I gave them in the locker room,” Vogel said. “I don’t need to share all that with you.”

Russell Westbrook stepped into the starting lineup and delivered his first triple-double of the season, finishing with 16 points, 15 assists and 15 rebounds for the Clippers. Paul George led Los Angeles with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

“We didn’t show (mental toughness) tonight,” Vogel said. “But we did respond in the second half. We are remaining confident, and I believe in this team.”

Suns’ Rally Falls Short in Home Finale Loss Against Clippers

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau


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