The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin scored 22 of his 37 points in the first quarter and made 14 of 16 shots before fouling out, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Phoenix Suns 112-105 on Monday night for their eighth straight victory.
Darren Collison scored 20 points and Chris Paul added 17 points and 11 assists for the Pacific Division leaders, who were 55.1 percent from the field and improved to 23-1 when shooting at least 50 percent.
Goran Dragic had 23 points and five assists during a foul-plagued 33 minutes for the Suns, who slipped a half-game behind idle Memphis for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot and are 1 1⁄2 behind Dallas. Phoenix hasn’t made the postseason since 2010 under coach Alvin Gentry, now a Clippers associate head coach.
Gerald Green, who had a career-high 41 points for the Suns in last Thursday’s 128-122 win over Oklahoma City, finished with 16 points after averaging 23.4 over his previous 13 games. Miles Plumlee, playing his second game after missing the previous two because of a sprained right knee, had 12 points and nine rebounds as all five Suns starters scored in double figures.
Dragic came in averaging 20.5 points, third in the league among point guards behind Stephen Curry (23.5) and Kyrie Irving (21.5). But he picked up his third foul 2 minutes into the second quarter and wasn’t a factor until the fourth, when the Suns rallied from a 19-point deficit with 8:11 remaining and got it down to 109-105 on Dragic’s layup with 32.5 seconds to play.
But that was as close as they got, as Matt Barnes made three of four free throws to close it out. Barnes finished with 13 points, just six days after scoring a season-high 28 — including six 3-pointers — and making 12 of his first 13 shots in the Clippers’ 104-96 win at Phoenix.
Things got testy with 5:28 remaining, as Griffin and P.J. Tucker began wrestling on the floor after they jockeyed for position in the paint on a missed 3-point shot by Barnes and Griffin fell on top of Tucker.
The two had to be separated, and the game was delayed while referees Bennie Adams, Jason Phillips and Matt Boland examined the video monitor to sort it all out. Tucker was charged with a loose ball foul and then ejected, while Griffin stayed in the game.
Also on Monday:
Knicks 123, 76ers 110: NEW YORK — Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 28 points as New York defeated Philadelphia, sending the 76ers to their 17th straight loss.
Heat 99, Wizards 90: MIAMI — Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, LeBron James led all scorers with 23 points and Miami clinched a playoff spot.
Bobcats 105, Nuggets 98: CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Al Jefferson scored 26 points and Kemba Walker added 24 as Charlotte won its seventh straight at home.
Bucks 105, Magic 98: MILWAUKEE — Brandon Knight scored 24 points and sparked Milwaukee’s rousing rally from an 18-point deficit with a dunk.
Nets 101, Raptors 97: NEW YORK — Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston each scored 18 points and an ailing Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to lead Brooklyn past Atlantic Division-leading Toronto.
Hawks 112, Jazz 110: SALT LAKE CITY — Kyle Korver scored 26 points and Paul Millsap added 23 to help Atlanta outlast Utah and snap a six-game losing streak.