The Los Angeles Clippers are down 2-0 to the Phoenix Suns after falling 104-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. Tuesday’s game ended in a tense finale, with Deandre Ayton putting in the closing touches with an alley-oop off an inbound pass with 0.7 seconds remaining.
The play happened just after LA Clippers star Paul George missed two free throws that would have given his club a three-point lead. Instead, the Phoenix Suns were behind by just one point, and it made all the difference in the subsequent play.
Despite Devin Booker’s poor shooting (5-of-16 FG) due to Patrick Beverley’s defense, the Los Angeles Clippers were unable to capitalize, allowing other Suns players to have their way.
Both teams were missing an All-Star, as Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul both missed Game 2 due to knee injuries and COVID-19, respectively.
Here are the five reasons why the Los Angeles Clippers lost against the Phoenix Suns:
1 Paul George struggled early on, missing key free shots.
Without Leonard, George was once again expected to carry a heavier burden offensively and fill the leadership void. He struggled from the field for three quarters and didn’t make a 3-pointer until the fourth.
He scored 10 points in the period, including two clutch baskets in the final minute, but missed two free throws with 7.8 seconds left. That gave the Phoenix Suns a wide-open window to steal the game.
Paul George misses two FTs in the clutch 😬 pic.twitter.com/MlBWWWG6r0— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 23, 2021
George shot 10-of-23 from the field and only 1-of-8 from 3-point range. Worse, he struggled at the foul line, making only 5-of-10 attempts. He had 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
2 Too much one-on-one action to begin the game
The Los Angeles Clippers only had five assists in the first half, which irritated coach Tyronn Lue. During the halftime break, he was seen on national television berating his players for failing to move the ball.
Despite being behind by one point at the half, the Los Angeles Clippers’ lack of ball movement at the start cost them the game, which they lost by one point against the Phoenix Suns. To their credit, they moved the ball well in the second half, with 13 assists.
The third-place Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t be stopped. Deandre Ayton and Cameron Payne
The LA Clippers had no answer for the Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne and Deandre Ayton. Though neither player was an All-Star, they played like superstars in Game 2. Payne had 29 points and nine assists with no one on the Clippers able to keep him in front.
Ayton, meanwhile, dominated any and every defender the LA Clippers had to offer. He had 24 points, including the game-winning basket, to go along with 14 rebounds.
#4 Phoenix Suns dominated the paint
Credit to the LA Clippers for hanging on and making this a close game despite the Phoenix Suns’ dominance in the shaded area. The Suns scored a whopping 60 points in the paint to the Clippers’ 30.
That 30-point margin was made even worse after the game-winning play came on a dunk by Ayton to seal the LA Clippers’ fate.
The Phoenix Suns shot horribly from beyond the arc, going 6-of-26 for the night, but they made up for it by constantly attacking the basket and taking advantage of the Clippers’ lack of rim protectors.
#5 Rally came late
The LA Clippers were playing from behind almost the entire game. With 2:56 remaining, the Phoenix Suns were up by just six points, 96-90.
George and company clawed their way back in to take a 101-100 lead with 30.9 seconds left on a George pull-up jumper, giving them their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter.