A massive 39-point effort by Paul George and a cold night of shooting by the Suns ended in a five-point road win for the Clippers in Phoenix (112-107).
As expected, the game was a track meeting from the start. The Suns performed poorly on offense, with the length of the Clippers clearly diverting much of the ball movement and cutting that normally define the Sun’s system.
The first basket shows how tight things were early on. It took almost the entire shot clock and a tough game of Devin Booker to get Chris Paul a face-up three.
Fortunately for the Suns, that was all it took to get Paul into the rhythm as he scored seven early points and got pretty vocal with his teammates to get the game started. By the time the Clippers took the lead 16-7, Paul Deandre had already attacked Ayton and Mikal Bridges for various mistakes at both ends of the floor.
From there, the Clippers took control of the game with their scoring, and the Suns just never felt comfortable with that. As two examples, Los Angeles forced Ayton and Jae Crowder to pick and roll early on because everything else was cut off, and later stamped out multiple properties in a row where the suns went out of plan to keep Booker up to date Bringing Luke Kennard and Lou Williams when the Clippers got small.
At 9:41 in the second quarter, the Clippers were leading 50-24, and the Suns had nine sales versus just seven assists.
It was Paul George who, despite two early sales from him, got the majority of the rating for LA. Going forward, consider how the Suns compete with the Clippers in this regard, as neither George nor Kawhi Leonard are a great matchup for Jae Crowder and Booker is overwhelmed with protecting these guys. The star tandem of clips would compete on the 3 and 4 for most teams these days, but they play the wing for the clips, which means teams have to take into account Nic Batum and Serge Ibaka in the forecourt as well. It is a mess to defend, as the suns saw in this one.
Not many other teams can punish the Suns this way, but obviously the Clippers are a division antagonist and a competitor to the Western Conference, so it’s important.
In the middle of the second period LA lost some momentum offensively, but the suns couldn’t take advantage of this. Booker crossed the line neatly to get to the foul limit, but nothing else worked for the Suns for a few minutes until a Dario Saric triple at 4:25 brought the Suns back in 24 minutes and forced the clips to time out.
The suns held their gas to end the period and were able to cut the lead to 20 by halftime.
The most remarkable thing about this game was the sun’s patience. It’s been a trademark of theirs since Monty Williams took office, but doing it against a title contender when they’re 31 is a whole other level. The team from top to bottom deserves a lot of credit, but especially the starters who Williams drove hard earlier this year and who play relentless and balanced basketball. You will not be unsettled.
A quick 6-0 run, crowned by Bridges 3, forced Ty Lue to take a time-out, with the Clippers’ lead dropping to just 15 in the middle of the third half.
This is where things stayed for a while as the teams paced back and forth for a few minutes. Ayton led the Suns, fouling and recovering from a bad start to his matchup with Ivica Zubac.
The other center started where Ayton left off. Saric never makes the wrong game on the offensive and was surprisingly strong enough to keep up with Zubac for most of the game. He hit a three and a free throw late in the third to reduce the Clippers lead to 10.
A three from Johnson cut it to 7 in the fourth period. What a comeback from the suns.
They started hot on the fourth too, when Johnson nailed another triple and Booker threw his own right over George’s head. A Booker’s free throw a moment later set the suns within 2.
At this point in the game, the ball bounced, made, or missed completely around the perimeter. Not only did the suns do what it took to come back, they did it by returning to what won games for them. You will surely remember this as you move through the season.
The other big change we saw at the beginning of the last phase was that Paul started defensively against George after Booker and Bridges had spent most of the game protecting George. It seemed to calm George down for a few minutes before nailing a post-jumper over Paul and talking rubbish when Paul checked out on the next break. On the next possession, Payne collapsed on George when the Clippers star tried to shoot, and the two tried at a real moment holding me back.
George and Booker received technical fouls in addition to Payne’s ground foul, so no one shot free throws and the ball stayed at LA.
Once again Ayton struggled with fouls and got his fifth with 5:55 from the end. Since Saric has already been pushing for 20 minutes, Monty decided on a miniature with a crowder in the middle.
When Ayton returned, the move that served the Suns so well in the first six games didn’t work when George handled the ball. Ayton didn’t have the same size and length advantage, which meant George could still get to his seats to look good.
Late in the game, the Suns looked consistently good, including an open midfielder for Booker, another for Paul, and a three for Booker. Even with Ayton active on the offensive glass and those open shots, George and the Clippers did just enough to keep it out of reach and seal the victory.
Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker
World news – USA – Review: The Suns’ comeback attempt fails because they beat the Clippers to lose. 112-107
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