Well, that one hurt. There is no possible way to sugar coat this loss. Not that the Clippers had any business winning this game, they did not. Nothing about their play last night showed that this was a game they could or would win. Yet somehow, inexplicably, the Clippers had the win. They literally had it. It was handed to them by the basketball gods. They finally shown a light down on the franchise and gifted them a win in the Western Conference Finals. A win in the WCF; something they had never achieved to date. This was big! All the Clippers had to do was accept the gift and protect it.
They didn’t. They coulnd’t.
It’s easy to blame Paul George for this one. He did miss two crucial free-throws. But, without George the Clippers aren’t in a position to win it at all. A lot went right for the Clippers to be in a position to win, and a lot went wrong which led to the loss.
Final Minute Rundown
- 1:06 left
- Suns lead, 100-97
- The 100 is a key for Clippers fans. The Clippers were going to have to break the Law to win this
- 56.7 left
- Paul George is fouled by Devon Booker and makes 2 Free Throws
- Clippers inch closer, 100-99
- 36.6 left
- 30.9 left
- Paul George had his superstar moment; he made a layup
- Clippers up 101-100
- 27.0 left
- Not to be outdone, Devon Booker had his superstar moment; he hit a mid range jumper
- Suns up 102-101
- 22.2 left
- Paul George responded with his own pullup jump shot
- Clippers up 103-102
- 8.2 left
- A lot went on between 22.2 and 8.2, but the key is, the Clippers are up 103-102 with the ball and 2 FT’s
- Paul George is an 86% FT shooter, both in these playoffs and over the entire season. His career FT% is 85%
- He missed them both
- Somehow, the Clippers still had a chance to win
- 3.3 left
- Mikal Bridges missed a corner 3.
- The Clippers aggressively double-teamed Booker and decided someone else would beat them. Bridges couldn’t.
- That rebound will haunt the Clippers for a while. It looked to be off Ayton, but was never reviewed.
- Suns ball
- 0.8 left
- You know what happened
- Suns up 104-103
Final Seconds Review
Ivica Zubac was the right person to guard Ayton on that play. The problem I had with it was that he started by guarding him 17 feet from the hoop. No one expected the final shot for the Suns, with .8 second left, to be a mid range jump shot by Deandre Ayton. The coaching staff should have done a better job positioning Zubac closer to the rim. Everyone knew Ayton would likely make a run for the hoop. Even Jeff Van Gundy mentioned it on the national broadcast. Instead, Zubac pressed him like you would a jump shooter, he went through a good screen by Booker and boom.
Surviving this mentally will be tough for the Clippers. But, nothing helps cure the sting of a loss like a win. As bad as it looks and feels now, things will look and feel better if the Clippers can take game 3 at home.
Star of the Game
Deandre Ayton. Pains me to admit it, but he was the difference.
An inability to recover mentally will be the Clippers biggest concern as they prepare for game 3. Of course, the status of Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris Sr. pretty important as well. The Clippers have been nothing if not resilient in these playoffs. They were counted out when they were down 0-2 against the Mavericks. Again, they were counted out when they were down 0-2 against the Jazz. They are counted out now. The Suns seem to be a much more well rounded team than either of the two teams we already mentioned. But, the Clippers have stepped up in every series. I expect them to do it again.
Zubac had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Rajon Rondo and Patrick Beverley contributed at the point guard position. The key to winning this gave however was having one of the role players take on the PG role. George has to take on the Kawhi role, so it makes sense. Reggie Jackson did his best PG impression with 19 points, but the Clippers needed more. In game 2, they just didn’t get enough from everyone.
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals v Phoenix Suns, Thursday, June 24 at 6:00PM Pacific
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Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!