At this point in their postseason, no adversity, particularly not falling down 0-2 in a series, should phase the LA Clippers. It’s essentially their routine at this point.
After Tuesday night’s heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Conference Finals, the Clippers have now fallen down 0-2 in all three series in their playoff run. It’s nothing new for them, and they stated as much after the loss.
"We lost two on the road,” said Reggie Jackson, who scored 19 points in the loss. “It's not a series until somebody loses at home. Hats off to them. They played well. They earned two wins…We're a confident group. We're going to put this one behind us...I like our odds. I like this team."
Head Coach Tyronn Lue reiterated his point guard’s message.
"The confidence of this team hasn't wavered,” Lue said. “They was in good spirits. We played good enough to win this game. Unfortunately it happens. We have to move on and get ready for Game 3."
Even so, a nail-biting, winnable loss like the one LA endured on Tuesday must have been a bit painful. Up 103-102 with 8.2 seconds left, Paul George was sent to the free throw line to potentially extend his team’s lead to three. George tragically missed both free throws (5-10 from the stripe for the night) and gave Phoenix too much of a fighting chance.
Though Mikal Bridges missed a wide-open three on the other end, the Suns retained possession with 0.9 seconds left. In this scenario, the most ideal shot a team can ask for is a lob dunk off of an inbounds pass.
And that’s exactly what they got.
Deandre Ayton was able to break free for a leap towards the basket, and inbounder Jae Crowder bulleted a pass centimeters above the rim. Ayton barely had to guide the ball through the hoop. Just like that, Phoenix led by one with a fraction of a second remaining, and the game was essentially over.
"It's not his fault,” Lue said of George’s missed free throws after the game. “Without him, we wouldn't even be in the game anyways."
George scored a team-high 26 points on 10-23 shooting (1-8 from three).
LA will aim to dig themselves out of yet another hole, with Game 3 tipping off back at Staples Center on Thursday at 6 p.m.