PG signs 41 points to keep the Los Angeles season open. The Suns waste their first chance to go to the Finals despite Booker’s 31 points
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They are tired, decimated, without their best man. On one thing, however, the Clippers know they can always count: the character of a team that when its back to the wall, as often happened in these playoffs, brings out the best in itself. Los Angeles did it again: they won 116-102 in Phoenix in Game-5, postponing the exit in a series that the Suns now lead 3-2 and that returns to California for the sixth game, scheduled at 3 am on the Italian night between Wednesday and Thursday.
The Clippers looked doomed when Ivica Zubac, one of the best in race-4, went to join Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka in the infirmary. Coach Lue, on the other hand, has once again found a way to fix the team. And Paul George has once again found a way to silence the critics, to show how strong he is by inventing the best game of his career in the playoffs (41 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists). Phoenix, who chased practically the entire race after a false start, thus wasted his first chance to go to the Finals after 28 years of waiting.
The Clippers’ victory is a masterpiece. George, first of all. Still decisive, still the catalyst of the game of LA. This time also efficient at shooting, 15/20. “I don’t understand where all the hatred towards him comes from: he’s special, he’s one of the best around” praised DeMarcus Cousins, X-Factor with 15 points off the bench and one of Lue’s winning moves. The Clippers wouldn’t have won without PG-13, without those 20 points in an almighty third quarter to respond to Phoenix’s first and only pass. But they wouldn’t have won even without coach Lue. He is the mind behind this chameleonic team, the one able to bring out the best from each of the players available (and there are fewer and fewer), to understand what is needed and how to get it.
Having lost Zubac, Lue started with a small quintet, sending a platoon to control DeAndre Ayton and managing to take out of the match the center of the Suns that had done so much damage in race-4. When Phoenix ducked in with Dario Saric, Lue responded with Cousins, the only center left to him. Also fundamental are Reggie Jackson, 23 points and the usual heavy baskets in the fourth period, and Marcus Morris, who in this game-5 has almost scored more points (22) than those he had scored in the first 4 games of the series (25). The Clippers always remain with their backs to the wall: they know they can no longer make mistakes, but they are also convinced that, despite the heavy absences, they have everything they need for yet another turnaround.
“This match is a reminder of how we should play in the playoffs. It is unacceptable how we started, under 20-5 ”. Monty Williams does not mind pointing the finger at the mistakes of his Suns, attacked by the Clippers at the start and unable to match the intensity of a team that was playing for the season. “We are in the playoffs, we need to know that a team will not step aside just because we are ahead in the series,” says Cam Johnson, one of the few positive notes. The best was Devin Booker, who played a positive game (31 points) even though Phoenix needed him to be exceptional.
Like Chris Paul, usually a great conductor but not irresistible (22 points and 8 assists). Ayton was missing (10 points, 11 rebounds), who failed to stop the devastating forays to the iron in LA (58 Clippers points in the area, one of the sore points according to Williams), the Suns defense was missing which conceded 54.8% from the field, the usual precision and cleanliness was lacking, with Phoenix losing 14 balls transformed by LA in 24 points. “It’s a bad defeat for us – Booker says harshly -. We lost a chance to end the series at home and go to the Finals. We have to be ready for game-6 ”.
The initial 20-5 inspired by Morris (13 points in the first quarter) is a slap that hurts Phoenix, even down by 14 (44-30 in the opening of the second period), but good at not giving up. The recovery begins with the Clippers ahead 59-52 and the Suns who, at 8’28 ”from the third siren, overtake with Paul. It is at this point that George rises to the phenomenon level, putting the Clippers back on the safe side with 20 points in the third quarter alone. LA starts for the final 12 ‘ahead 91-78: Phoenix returns inside with a partial 11-2, but Jackson remembers that these are his playoffs and with 8 points in a row he puts the Clippers back in a safe place, before George closes definitively The bills. The Western Conference final, however, is not yet closed.
Phoenix:Booker 31 (5/16 of two, 4/6 of three, 9/11 free throws), Paul 22, Johnson 14. Rebounds: Ayton 11. Assists: Paul 8.
LA Clippers:George 41 (12/14, 3/6, 8/8 tl), Jackson 23, Morris 22. Rebounds: George 13. Assist: George 6.
June 29 – 07:14
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