Ayton sinks the 104-103 Suns with the clock running out. It starts again on Thursday in Los Angeles: will Chris Paul be there too?
The perfect play. Nine tenths on the clock: Jae Crowder’s throw from the corner of the pitch, Devin Booker’s block that cost Ivica Zubac a moment’s delay, just enough for DeAndre Ayton to go up to the sky, catch the ball, and push it into the basket, at seven tenths from the end. This is how Phoenix won 104-103 the incandescent game-2 against the Clippers, good for the 2-0 in the series that moves to Los Angeles from Thursday, where perhaps he will find Chris Paul, always stopped for Covid and in his own quarantine. in the city of angels. If the race-1 victory had been the consequence of a stellar performance by Booker, this race-2 came due to the team strength of the Suns. “We are profound – says coach Monty Williams with pride -. Maybe we have young alternatives but we are profound ”. The Clippers go down 2-0 for the third time out of three in these playoffs: they have done everything to avoid it, with Tyronn Lue having again found the right countermeasures to restart after the first defeat. They weren’t enough, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right way.
The final basket for Ayton is the icing on the cake of a fantastic match, closed with 24 points and 14 rebounds and yet another confirmation of his value: perhaps he will never be the best talent of the 2018 class, the one of which he was first choice absolute and which also includes Luka Doncic and Trae Young, but has evolved into one of the best NBA centers. “I could tell you for hours about how much he’s grown, I’ll just say he’s become a dominant center on both sides of the pitch,” says Williams. Phoenix’s other secret weapon is Cameron Payne: Chris Paul’s replacement, out of the NBA a year ago, explodes with 29 points and 9 assists, his best game ever in the Association. He was very good at putting in heavy baskets and putting his teammates in rhythm. Needed, given Booker’s difficult night. Beverley annoyingly stuck on him like a dress on a muggy summer afternoon, knocking him out of the loop. And, perhaps, even breaking his nose with an involuntary head 3 ‘from the third siren. Booker returned to the field in the fourth quarter, with three stitches, a little pain and a great desire to make a difference. He made up for 7 turnovers and 5/16 shooting with 20 points, the late block that helped Ayton to whom he had previously added magic in a spectacular last-minute back-and-forth with Paul George. The Suns survived the 2/14 by three in the second half, the asphyxiating defense of the Clippers, the offensively nothing game of Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. Yet they won, showing how much they have grown, how much they are a team, how much they deserve to be two wins from the Finals.
“We let go of a game we thought we could win,” Lue said before reiterating that the Clippers remain confident for the rest of the series. LA was ahead of 1 when the last, eternal, last second began: it lost for a play, in which the players did not do anything wrong. The Clippers made mistakes before: “We made adjustments in defense which I think worked, but in attack we hurt ourselves,” explains Lue. The team has changed with Pat Beverley and Zubac in the quintet: the defense of Lue’s dog on Booker was Oscar-worthy (even for an evident simulation worthy of Hollywood in the fourth period) and the Croatian center did a great job to counter the physicality of Ayton. The Clippers missed the best George, 26 points and 6 assists but also 1/8 from three and an unusual 5/10 at free throws, including two sensational mistakes with 8 “from the end, with LA ahead 103-102, which would have changed everything . Kawhi Leonard is always missing and PG is proving from game to game that he is neither soft nor one that melts in key moments, given that the fourth period was the best of his game (10 of his 26 points), but those two mistakes in the bezel they weigh a lot. Still good Reggie Jackson, 19 points to confirm himself in this moment second violin of LA. The Clippers are back where they were against Dallas and Utah: they lost the first two games of the series and now they have to find a way to recover. Only this time they will have to do it without Kawhi Leonard.
Tense and spectacular match, gritty and playoff-worthy. The biggest gap is the 63-54 that Phoenix builds in the middle of the third quarter, but it doesn’t last long. The fourth period begins with the Suns ahead 74-71 and on the run at 84-77 with 9’19 ”to go. Lue draws the wildcard Kennard (10 points in the period), George lights up and the Clippers come back under. PG-13 at 30 “from the end brings the guests to 101-100, Booker responds immediately but George still signs the overtaking, 103-102, with 20” on the clock. Then he misses two free throws, the Suns play possession of life and close the accounts with that splendid Ayton magic. The perfect play, that of 2-0.
Phoenix:Payne 29 (10/16 of two, 2/8 of three, 3/4 free throws), Ayton 24, Booker 20. Rebounds: Ayton 14. Assists: Payne 9.
LA Clippers:George 26 (9/15, 1/8, 5/10 tl), Jackson 19, Zubac 14. Rebounds: Zubac 11. Assists: George 6.
June 23 – 07:43
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