DeAndre Ayton tipped in an inbound pass from Jae Crowder with just 0.9 left on the clock to lift Phoenix to a 104-103 road victory over the Clippers, and the Suns took a 2-0 series lead heading to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday night.
That’s definitely Jae’s game-winner, making a great pass over a 7-footer. Coach drew up a great play where I was in the best position. My teammates trust me, and my coaches trust me. Book set a great screen that freed me up into the lane to at least gather my feet and go for the ball, and the rest is just off my athleticism and my talent. Jae set it up right there perfectly.DeAndre Ayton, ESPN
Ayton, who deserves all the credit but isn’t taking it, finished the game with 24 points and 14 rebounds on 12-for-15 shooting from the field, becoming the first player in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55 season) with a 70+ FG pct in a 12-game postseason span, with a minimum of 100 field-goal attempts. (Elias Sports)
In fact, none of the Suns wanted the credit for yesterday’s win. Not Monty Williams for drawing up the game-winning play. Not Cameron Payne, for filling Chris Paul’s shoes and then some, finishing the game with a career-high 29 points (12/24) along with 9 assists and 0 turnovers in 38 minutes of action. Not even Devin Booker, who, despite suffering a nose injury in the third quarter, had a solid all-around output (20 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) and even set a crucial screen on Ivica Zubac to free up Ayton for the last second lob.
But this wasn’t about any individual in particular. The Suns’ Game 2 victory was a total team effort, and that’s exactly where they want the spotlight to be. It’s how Phoenix got into this position in the first place, and now it’s not the time for a paradigm shift, as the series moves to LA for a potential series-decisive Game 3.
Based on this year’s Playoffs, you can argue that’s exactly where the Clippers want to be — they were down 2-0 against the Mavericks and Jazz. The fact both of their losses were close games is another thing that can make their fans optimistic. Had Paul George made his free throws with 8.2 seconds left on the clock, they could’ve been even more optimistic going back home.
He’s all right. It’s part of the game. It happens. It’s not his fault. Without him, we wouldn’t be in the game anyway. Made some big plays down the stretch and they made a big play at the end to win the game.Ty Lue, ESPN
Even George himself didn’t seem too bothered about missing two clutch free throws. “I’m not going to put too much on that,” he said after putting up 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists on 10-for-23 shooting. “I’m always confident at the free-throw line. I’ve always been very successful in clutch moments at the free throw line.”
Reggie Jackson added 19 points and 5 assists for the Clippers, and Zubac finished with a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds). But they once again came up short in a very winnable Western Conference Finals game on the road.
It’s not time to write the Clippers off just yet. But Game 2 can easily become the one they’ll look back on and say, “that one cost us the series“– especially since, according to ESPN sources, there is optimism within the Suns’ organization that CP3 could return for Game 3 on Thursday. Meanwhile, there are still no updates on Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury or whether he’ll be back during the WCF.
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