Suns overtake Clippers to 3-1 lead in Western Conference final – Orange County Register
LOS ANGELES – The Phoenix Suns walked off the script on Saturday, but not without a mountain of reluctance from the unabashed Clippers in a wild – and extremely offbeat – game in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
Ultimately, the Suns shattered their hosts’ remarkable two-game losing pattern in two rounds so far this playoffs with an 84-80 victory.
The Clippers’ resilience will face its toughest test yet in Game 5 on Monday night in Phoenix, where they would be without All-Star Kawhi Leonard for the seventh game in a row in their third proposal to win or return to the league. home in the playoffs.
They trailed Dallas 3-2 in the first round before winning Games 6 and 7 to qualify. Now they will be down 3-1 for the first time – and face strong odds; teams with a 3-1 lead in the conference finals are 52-4 in these series.
Phoenix will play for the opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
With a sold-out Staples Center crowd of 18,222 dying on its collective feet for much of the suffocating fourth quarter on Saturday, when the Clippers shot 3 for 19 and the Suns went 4 for 19, and 0 for 6 and 0 for 3 from 3 points. , respectively.
The Clippers were 0-of-12 on fourth-quarter shots that could have tied the game or given them the lead, most of those unbranded fourth-quarter attempts in a game in the last 25 playoffs. They came close to a point four times in the fourth quarter, but they could never take the lead.
“We just couldn’t get over the bump,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, it happens. I’m really proud of the way our guys competed and fought all night. To keep this team at 34 points in the second half, it’s a powerful offense.
“But our guys, I thought we were competing. Impossible to hit. (We) took it personally a few times and we dribbled too much at times, but for the most part we competed, and it’s going to happen.
“I’m proud of our guys, of the way they competed. We just need to do some snapshots. That’s it.”
The final 13 seconds of the game boiled down to a painstaking free-throw contest: Chris Paul went 5 for 6 and the Clippers went 4 for 8, deliberately missing three free-throw attempts in an attempt to score a basket.
The ploy failed and Paul, the former Clippers star point guard, finally froze the win with two free kicks with 1.3 seconds left.
“It was a lot,” said Paul. “It was a lot. It was moving, it was noisy.
In his second comeback after COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Paul finished with 18 points and seven assists. Deandre Ayton finished with 19 points and a career-high 22 rebounds. And Devin Booker scored a high 25 points on an 8-for-22 shot before committing a foul in the last minute.
The Clippers shot 32% (27 for 83) for the game; Phoenix was a little better at 36% (31 to 86). The Clippers scored just five 3-pointers in the game, down from all but one game this season. The Suns have only hit four deep.
Playing their 13th game in 25 days, the Clippers left plenty of short shots, likely a sign of tired legs for an understaffed unit that also traveled eight of its 12 days off.
Was it fatigue? Lue said: “It could be. But that’s no excuse at this time of the season. Guys could be a little tired. We just have to fight. ”
George finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in 42 minutes. His latest 20-point effort extended his playoff streak to 17 games – something only Kobe Bryant (2008) and Kevin Durant (2012, 2018) have done. He also scored his 430th point of the playoffs in the first quarter for a personal best point total in one season.
And he pushed his playoff minutes total to 694 – 134 more than Booker recorded, and the Suns All-Star goaltender has played the second most playoff minutes this year.
In a career-high 40 minutes on Saturday, Zubac finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Reggie Jackson contributed 20 points and Mann gave the Clippers 12 points off the bench.
“I feel like we played well defensively,” said Jackson. “I have to play better offensively. Try to do more to find me pictures. The ones we had tonight, we had the impression that they will go to the next game. Unhappy break, but we are up to the challenge.
The Clippers’ cold start – LA shot 29.5% (13 for 44) from the ground and 18.2% (4 for 22) from long distance – prepared them to drop a Game 4 for the first time in the playoffs playoffs.
They suffered a six-minute drought in the first half, a spell finally broken by George’s layup which reduced the lead to 41-28 with 3:40 left in the second quarter – a basket to which Cam Payne responded immediately with a 3-pointer that pushed the Suns advantage to 44-28. The Clippers’ 36 points in the first half tied the franchise’s lowest score in the first half of a playoff game.
Luckily for LA, the Suns didn’t quite start the game on fire either. They came in at halftime after making 21 of their 45 attempts in total and just 4 for 11 from deep and leading 50-36.
And a 14-point lead can quickly dissipate in the NBA.
See: The Clippers’ third quarter 30-19, in which they shot 11-for-20 from the field and landed one of only three 3-pointers they attempted. Leading the charge: Jackson with nine points on a 4-for-8 shot, surpassing his entire production in the first half.
“We had saves and we just played faster. That’s really what we did… it was really the breakthrough, ”said George, admitting that maintaining that pace is a challenge.
“It’s tough as a team. Mostly (because there is) such an emphasis on finishing possession, playing hard defense and then you have to finish possession and bounce back. And they crash, it’s hard to box Ayton. So when you secure the ball it’s like, you know, that’s when you take your breath away. So during a game it’s hard to keep going. ”
The tide turned with 6:14 left in the third, when Mann converted a tough layup, fouled Crowder and responded by flexing and shaking his long locks of hair, a moment that increased the length of time. energy in the building.
The Clippers trailed just 69-66 at the entry of the fourth, when Booker made his fourth foul early, as well as a technique for discussing the call – one of four in a chatty and chippy contest that sent out Clippers goaltender Patrick Beverley, George and Payne at home with technical fouls as well.
Booker’s foul sent George to the line, where he made two of three attempts, missing the last one that would have tied the game for the first time.
Instead, the Clippers were trailing 71-70 – that’s how they stayed for a long time that included two Clippers’ clock violations.
After Phoenix took a time out, Paul hit an alley-oop pass that Ayton and Booker knocked down a jumper that gave the Suns a 75-72 lead with 5:13 left.
And then once a Paul layup gave Phoenix a 77-74 lead, Booker fouled Zubac and made his free throws to bring the score to 79-74 with just 2:16 to go. to play.
About a minute later, Patrick Beverley was called out for a blocking foul on a driving Booker – but the appeal was quashed when the Clippers contested. Instead, Booker was charged with an offensive foul – his sixth and final foul of the game.
Mann slipped inside shortly after for a quick layup that brought the score to 79-76 with 58 seconds left.
George was fouled almost immediately by Mikal Bridges, returning to the free throw line where he took both free kicks to reduce the lead to one – giving the ball back to the Suns with 13.2 seconds left.
After officials determined that Nicolas Batum repelled the ball with 7.8 seconds left, the Suns recovered the ball and handed it to Paul, whom George committed. (The Clippers believe the ball could have come out of Payne and not Batum, and that the call deserved at least consideration, although Lue said he would not protest the call after the fact, “I’m not not a big bitch. “)
Paul made both free throws and pushed the lead to 81-78 with seven seconds left.
Then Bridges fouled George before he could throw a 3-pointer, and the Clippers star walked over to the free throw line and missed the first free kick, then deliberately missed the second.
Clippers center DeMarcus Cousins - who had just checked in for the first time on Saturday – took the rebound and was immediately fouled by Dario Saric. He did the first and intentionally missed the second – but because he missed the rim it returned possession to the Suns with 5.8 to go.
Beverley fouled Paul, who made one of his two free throws – before George was fouled again and did one of the two again.
Finally, Paul made the last visit of the evening to the free throw line to seal the victory.
“I just have to take one game at a time,” said Lue, who caught the Cleveland Cavaliers under LeBron James after a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors with 73 wins en route to their first NBA title in 2016. “Just focus on Monday’s game, that’s it. Don’t focus on winning three games. We have to take one game at a time, and that has to be our state of mind.
“We beat Utah and won four straight games. So it’s very doable. We just need to make sure we’re locked in and understand what we’re doing offensively. ”