Ayton soars for last second alley-oop, Suns beat Clippers

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Devin Booker sat in a chair with a crooked and swollen nose, complete with tape over three fresh stitches. He also had an enormous smile on his face, remembering Jae Crowder’s pass, Deandre Ayton’s tip-in dunk, and a play that will sleep in Phoenix Suns lore for an extended, long time. Ayton jammed an alley-oop pass from Crowder with 0.7 seconds left, lifting the Suns to a 104-103 convert the l. a. Clippers on Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

It was a game that looked as if it had been about over, but Booker’s Suns weren’t getting to be denied. “I believed it could happen,” Booker said. “100 percent.” The Suns were down one with 0.9 seconds left when Crowder lofted a high expire an out-of-bounds play on the baseline. A soaring Ayton decreased the lane and stuffed it through the internet over L.A.’s Ivica Zubac because the crowd roared in disbelief. Booker — twiddling with a stitched-up nose following a collision with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley — had a key screen on Zubac on the ultimate play, which helped free Ayton.

“The celebration and reaction were a touch shaky,” Ayton said. “Because I wasn’t sure what I did. I wasn’t sure if it counted.” The referees spent a few minutes reviewing the play before ruling the basket was good and Booker spent a while jawing with Clippers players Rajon Rondo and Demarcus Cousins within the aftermath. The Clippers couldn’t get an attempt off within the final 0.7 seconds. “Those are my Kentucky guys,” Booker said with a smile. “I told them ‘Go Big Blue .’” The Suns now have a 2-0 lead within the series heading to l. a. for Game 3 on Thursday night. The Clippers are going to be fighting from a 2-0 deficit for the third time in these playoffs after rallying to beat the Mavericks and Jazz.

The Crowder-to-Ayton connection negated a Clippers rally that was led by Paul George, who had 26 points. George made a layup with 31 seconds left to offer the Clippers a 101-100 lead for his or her first advantage since early within the third quarter. He added a 22-footer on their next offensive possession for a 103-102 lead. But there was tons more action left.

George — and 85% career foul shot shooter — missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining and therefore the Suns had an opportunity to win, but it looked as if it wouldn’t happen when Mikal Bridges missed a corner 3-pointer and therefore the ball was deflected out of bounds. Instead, it found out Crowder’s heave to Ayton, who was dominant within the paint all game long. Even together with his big late shot-making, George’s missed free throws loomed largely. “Obviously, it had been a chance that was missed,” George said. “Pat made a fantastic play that put me within the position to increase the lead. I’m always confident at the foul shot line. I even have always been very successful in clutch moments at the foul shot line. Tonight, I used to be just unsuccessful.”

The Suns have won a franchise-record nine straight within the playoffs. The Suns were led by Cameron Payne, who was brilliant while subbing for All-Star Chris Paul. He finished with a career-high 29 points. Ayton had 24 points and 14 rebounds, while Booker added 20 points. “We just had no account Cameron Payne,” Lue said. “He got downhill all night. His speed and his quickness really hurt us all night.” Payne repeatedly carved through the Clipper’s defense, making tough buckets at the rim with pretty left-handed finishes. He made what seemed like an important layup with about 90 seconds left, finishing high off the glass to offer the Suns a 100-95 lead.

But the gritty Clippers responded and nearly pulled this one out. “It may be a hard game to swallow because check out this game, we’ve got this game won,” Beverley said. “But we’ve been within the trenches before. We respond well within the trenches and that we will respond well. We always do.” It was a troublesome night for the celebs from Game 1 until the ultimate minutes. Booker shot just 5 of 16 from the sector and missed a part of the third quarter with a bloody nose. George was 10 of 23 from the sector and missed his first seven 3-point attempts before his late buckets. Ayton continued his eye-opening performance in these playoffs. The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 out of Arizona often has been overshadowed by later picks within the same draft like Atlanta’s Trae Young and Dallas’ Luka Doncic. But he has carved out quite a niche in Phoenix and now features a signature play that will survive in franchise history.

The Suns were playing without Paul for the second straight game. The 11-time All-Star has been within the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol for the past week and therefore the team isn’t sure when he’ll return. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain, and he stayed in l. a. to urge treatment on the injury. The action was physical from the opening minutes. Referee Scott Foster gave technicals to Crowder and Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. after some jawing following a scrum for a loose ball. BLOODY BOOKER, BEVERLY Booker took an attempt to the nose late within the third after he bumped heads with Beverley, who was playing tight defense. The Sun’s guard fell to the ground and was down for a moment before walking back to the room with the medical staff with a towel over his nose.

Beverley was also left bloody on the forehead from the exchange and had to go away from the sport and alter jerseys. A foul was called on Beverley. The referees ruled it had been not flagrant. Booker jogged back out onto the court before the fourth quarter to an enormous roar from the gang . TIP-INS Clippers: Lue shook up the starting lineup, using Beverley and Zubac in situ of Nicolas Batum and Terance Mann. … Leonard and forward Serge Ibaka (back surgery) didn’t play. … Morris was handling a sore right knee that limited him in Game 1, but he started on Tuesday. Suns: Paul and forward Abdel Nader (right knee arthroscopy) didn’t play. … The Suns had an equivalent starting lineup for the second straight game, using Payne in Paul’s place.

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