They return everything. It is the best phrase to define Clippers who resemble heroes in these playoffs. They have started the three qualifying rounds that they have 2-0 against, and in the three they have won the third game. In the first two they also won the fourth, an example to be taken into account by the Suns who have been a shadow of what they were in Phoenix. Far from the thunderous noise of the Arizona desert, this time there was no miracle in the last second, one that gives rise to those conditions that the debate lives on but that do not adjust to reality. If Paul George had made those two free throws, Ivica Zubac would have defended DeAndre Ayton better or Monty Williams would not have pulled the slate with amazing wisdom, it would be the Angelenos who would be 2-1. But, you know, the easy things are not exactly friends of the Clippers, who are still alive in that impossible dream of getting a ring that they have never been so close to. Not surprisingly, they are contesting the Conference finals for the first time in their history. It is said soon.
There were two games in one: a first half in which the Suns went ahead, with Ayton’s usual strong start (12 points the other day in the opening period, 10 this) and the novelty of a Chris Paul who finished the game with 15 points and 12 assistsyes, but 5 of 19 in field goals. He relegated to the bench Cameron Payne, the revelation, who finished with 29 points in the second round. This time he was not so lucky: a blow to his left knee prevented him from returning to the game after the break, thus increasing a string of injuries from which no one can escape in these playoffs. With Payne gone, Booker desperate and the team limp, the feat was impossible and this time there was no last minute comeback.. Although the disadvantage and the survival exercise of the Clippers, who swept in the second half, was impressive.
The first half was 46-48 for the Suns; the second, a 60-44 for the Clippers, who defended like titans. They only allowed the visitors to pass 25 points in the second period, left them under 39% in field goals and 31% in triples and tamped down the stars: Paul’s 5 of 19 was worsened by Booker, who stayed at 5 of 21. Pursued by Beverley, who seems who is in the world to make your life miserable, whether verbally or not. And that he has an innate ability to upset anyone and put in his pocket a hobby that seemed real and left behind the reputation of cold. The owner, Steve Ballmer, is there with his now traditional dances when celebrating a basket. Kawhi Leonard was also in the stands, who is not on the bench dressed as a street (like Serge Ibaka) and takes the usual freedom, the one he wants. In the United States, they reported that he went down to the locker room at halftime to talk to his teammates. Of the rest, nothing else is known: “All I know is that it’s not available today“, affirmed Tyronn Lue in the previous one.
A hero named Paul George
The absolute leader was Paul George: irregular in the shot (9 of 26, with 3 of 11 in triples), defended as only he knows how to do it, reached the fumbles, distributed from penetrations and rebounded masterfully. He finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists, with more scoring but almost the same prominence as Reggie Jackson, who went to 23 and is being a fundamental man in that player coach, undervalued in excess, as is Tyronn Lue. Gone is the monopolizing point guard, who only knows how to play in one way, earns a lot and contributes little from the Pistons. Jackson, who averages more than three hits from the line of three in these playoffs, is shooting over 50% from the field, 40% from 3-pointers and 88% from free throws, numbers that only Stephen Curry (eye) had achieved in the history of the finals. And it’s at 18 points per night. Little more to add. Value and prize for the Clippers, clearly.
The other great player, apart from the dynamic duo, was Ivica Zubac: the pivot, who ate Ayton’s last play in the second game, responded by drying his rival, which ended with scored the aforementioned 10 points in the first period, but he only got 8 more in the rest of the game, grabbed just 9 rebounds and finished with -25. Zubac, for his part, went to 15 + 16, finished with a +28 and came out strengthened from his individual fight, against Ayton and against himself. Special mention also for Terance Mann, the revelation of his team, with 10 key points in the third period, when a devastating partial from the Clippers gave them the advantage they needed to face the final stretch of the game. A very physical game that despaired of the Suns who were too involved with the referees (Crowder in the lead) and that it showed an extraordinary potential of a team that played as such and showed a huge community.
This is how it stands: 2-1 for the Clippers after the Lue trades, who sat down Marcus Morris from the start and brought Mann into the rotation and start. The changes worked, the ball circulated like never before and the basket was fully protected (58-47 in rebounds) at all times. Again, the surviving Cllippers are tasked with returning every hit they take and they show an amazingly good face to their audience. In two days, fourth round with the Angelenos again forced to win, something they have already done twice in these playoffs. Last year, they were the ones who wasted advantages; in this, they go back as if they had been doing it all their lives. And all, with a second round that they had in their pocket and that they ended up wasting due to their own mistakes and rival successes. If that game had ended differently … well, what we have already said. You do not live on the conditioning factors. This is the NBA playoffs. And the Clippers have another life. For a change.