06/25/2021 at 7:05 AM CEST
. / Los Angeles
Los Angeles Clippers shortened distances this Thursday in the final of the Western Conference (1-2) after beat Phoenix Suns They got Chris Paul back but didn’t have their luckiest night (106-92).
Paul George touched the triple-double (27 points with 9 of 26 in shots, 15 rebounds and 8 assists) and was in charge, once again, to make up for the loss of the injured Kawhi Leonard. But George was by no means alone, as he had the fantastic backing of Reggie Jackson (23 points), Ivica Zubac (15 points and 16 rebounds), Terance Mann (12 points and 5 rebounds) and a Patrick Beverley capital in defense.
Showcasing the collective effort that has made them triumph so far in the playoffs, the Clippers knew how to digest the cruel defeat in the second game of the series, in which a dunk in the last second by Deandre Ayton sank Los Angeles hopes.
For the Suns, the best news was the return of Chris Paul after missing the first two games of the West final due to the coronavirus protocol. The point guard had 15 points (5 of 19 shooting) and 12 assists. Neither was Devin Booker very fine in aim (15 points with 5 of 21 in shots), who, in addition, played with a protective mask after the hard blow to the nose that he took in the previous meeting. The pivot Deandre ayton was the top scorer of the visitors with 18 points and 9 rebounds in a game in which neither team excelled in attack (31% from 3-pointers for the Suns and 35% for the Clippers).
Chris Paul looked for sensations from the opening jump and on the first play he gave an assist for the basket from Deandre Ayton.
In the Clippers, the absence in the starting five of Marcus Morris, a mainstay of the Californian team, drew attention. That hole was filled by Reggie Jackson, very active and fierce at the beginning of the match (18-15 with 6.26 to go). On the other side, Ayton ruled the paint at will with 10 points but Booker, clearly uncomfortable with the mask, was denied going to the basket (no points after a 0 of 6 shooting in the first quarter). In the end, the Clippers bench, with the valuable interventions of Luke Kennard or Nico Batum, propelled the locals against a thick Suns (29-21).
The night was going to be streaks and the second set was clearly dominated by the visitors. A slap from Mikal Bridges and a triple from Devin Booker forced Tyronn Lue to stop the match before it got out of hand (29-26 with 10.15 left). But Rajon Rondo, a life insurance company for so many evenings, jumped onto the court today with a broken compass. The Clippers got stuck in a swamp of errors, lost balls, unfortunate attacks and concentration problems that the Suns took advantage of, now with clear ideas (33-35 with 5.47 left).
Before the general short circuit, the Angelenos resorted to a very warrior Ivica Zubac (11 points and 12 rebounds at halftime) and a great mate from George, which ended a rather sad second quarter for the Clippers (46-48). Neither team went to the locker room very happy, especially with their success from the triple: the Suns achieved 28% and the Clippers were at a paltry 18%.
Mann asks for passage
Booker and Bridges signed two juggler baskets at the restart, but it was Terence Mann who increased the Clippers’ revs and changed the sign of the game. Recalling his monumental display in the match that sent the Utah Jazz home, Mann, undoubtedly one of the great revelations of these playoffs, infected both his team and the fans of a Staples Center in Los Angeles with his fury ( USA) given over to rage and sacrifice of their own (56-53 with 8.50 on the clock).
The obfuscated on this occasion were the Suns, who saw how the Clippers culminated their comeback, witnessed the local hurricane without response in the third quarter (34-21) and also suffered Booker’s fourth foul.
All were positive signs for the Clippers. Zubac became a giant in the area, George and Jackson riddled the basket, and his intense defense, which did not give a ball lost, destroyed a completely damaged offensive circulation of the Suns (71-60 with 2.37 left). Those of Phoenix tried to reduce the difference before the final quarter, but George, with a triplazo from midfield and on the horn, kept them at bay (80-69).
The positive inertia of the Clippers continued in the last quarter. Kennard hit a great additional triple, Morris hit a new three shot and Mann put a huge block on Booker. The Clippers had a 20-point lead but a 0-7 run put the Suns back into the game with Paul in command of operations and Ayton as the executor (89-78 with 8.55 left). Nerves began to surface among the Clippers when they saw the Suns come within just six points. However, a Jackson who seemed not to weigh the pressure returned the smile to his team with a triple and a suicidal penetration (94-83 with 6.02 left) that truncated the Suns’ comeback threat.
The fourth match will be played on Saturday also in Los Angeles.