The Clippers never say die.
Led by Paul George’s 27-point, 15-rebound performance, Los Angeles officially turned the Western Conference finals into a series Thursday night.
The Clippers weren’t phased by the two-game hole they faced, nor by Chris Paul’s return from health and safety protocols. They have thrived in Game 3s throughout the 2021 NBA Playoffs, and they continued that trend to secure a 106-92 victory over the Suns at Staples Center.
Here are three thoughts from Game 3.
The Clippers refuse to fold
This Clippers team has made its mark as the first in NBA history to overcome an 0–2 deficit twice in the same playoffs—you didn’t expect them to go out easy now, did you?
In jeopardy of going down 3–0, Thursday night was essentially a must-win situation for the Clippers. And they played like it. Back on home court, they exemplified grit and toughness, outworking the Suns to reassert themselves back in this series.
Down two points at the halftime break, the Clippers went on a 21–3 run in the third quarter to take control of the contest, stretching their lead to as many as 15. The Suns put a slight dent into the gap towards the end of the period, but Paul George wasn’t having any of that, hitting a dazzling buzzer-beater from half court to end the quarter and suffocate any possible momentum—not that there was much there to begin with. Los Angeles finished with a 34-21 edge in the quarter.
Whatever comeback the Suns tried to make for the remainder of the contest, the Clippers had an answer. They simply refused to lose Game 3 in an all out gritty performance.
The Suns’ duo was stifled
To say it was a rough shooting night for Devin Booker and Chris Paul is putting it lightly. The duo combined for 30 misses from the field, to just 10 makes, in the loss.
For much of these playoffs, Booker had looked unstoppable. He scored at will and looked completely unfazed by the big stage. He was sensational in the first game of this series, notching his first-ever career triple-double in dominant fashion. But he has been brought back down to Earth over his last two outings, particularly so Thursday night as he played with a face mask after breaking his nose in a collision with Patrick Beverly in Game 2.
Booker looked off from the opening tip, missing his first five shots, and struggled mightily against the Clippers’ defense. He made just five of his 21 attempts from the floor and was clearly frustrated throughout the night. After his 15-point outing, Booker has averaged 17.5 points per game on 27% shooting over the last two games, a stark contrast from 29.0 points on 49% shooting through his first 11 games in the postseason.
As for Paul, it was unclear how rusty he would look after being stuck in health and safety protocols for the last two weeks. The answer was very. Though he made big contributions to set up teammates with 12 assists, he didn’t have his usual touch as he shot 5-of-19 from the floor.
The Suns took 90 attempts from the floor, a whopping 40 of which came from Paul or Booker. With both shooting at such a high rate and nothing falling, a win was simply out of the question.
The Clippers got contributions everywhere they needed
You couldn’t ask for much more than what the Clippers’ role players gave on both ends of the floor Thursday night.
Los Angeles had been dominated in the paint through the first two games of the series—the Suns outscored them by 50 points in that area of the floor and had outrebounded them too. Ivica Zubac helped shift those tides in Game 3.
The big man notched a double-double in the first half alone and went on to produce 15 points and a team-high 16 rebounds on the evening—a huge part of why the Clippers ended the night with a 51-43 advantage on the boards. He was able to draw fouls to frustrate the Suns and then got it done at the charity stripe, where he made nine of his 10 attempts. His defense was key as well, playing a big part in the Clippers limiting Phoenix to 42 points in the paint after allowing an average of 57 in the two games prior.
Reggie Jackson continued his impressive run this postseason as he finished with 23 points, good for second on the team behind George, on 9-of-17 shooting. Jackson has averaged 17.3 points per game on an efficient 50% from the field in the postseason.
Terance Mann got off to a hot start in the third quarter to help spark the Clippers’ dominant run, scoring 10 of his 12 points during that frame. He only missed two shots on the evening. Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris Sr. got buckets at opportune times as well, scoring two triples apiece and contributing a combined 17 points off the bench. The stellar defense of Patrick Beverly also can’t go unnoticed. He was an absolute pest throughout the evening and was reveling in every second of it. Los Angeles will need more of that to even the series come Game 4.
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