06/23 00:08 CDT Ayton soars for last second alley-oop, Suns beat Clippers
Ayton soars for last second alley-oop, Suns beat Clippers
By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) --- Devin Booker sat in a chair with a crooked and swollen nose,
complete with tape over three fresh stitches.
He also had a big smile on his face, remembering Jae Crowder's pass, Deandre
Ayton's tip-in dunk and a play that will live in Phoenix Suns lore for a long,
Ayton jammed an alley-oop pass from Crowder with 0.7 seconds left, lifting the
Suns to a 104-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night in Game 2
of the Western Conference finals.
It was a game that looked as if it was all but over, but Booker's Suns were not
going 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 pass on
an out-of-bounds play on the baseline. A soaring Ayton came down the lane and
stuffed it through the net over L.A.'s Ivica Zubac as the crowd roared in
disbelief. Booker had a key screen on Zubac on the final play, which helped
The referees spent about a minute reviewing the play before ruling the basket
was good. The Clippers couldn't get a shot off in the final 0.7 seconds, and
Booker spent some time jawing with Clippers players Rajon Rondo and Demarcus
Cousins in the aftermath.
"Those are my Kentucky guys," Booker said with a grin. "I told them ?Go Big
The Suns now have a 2-0 lead in the series heading to Los Angeles for Game 3 on
Thursday night. The Clippers will 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 give the Clippers a 101-100 lead
for their first advantage since early in the third quarter. Booker responded
with a jumper of his own with 27 seconds left.
George calmly took the ball on the next possession and drilled a long
two-pointer for a 103-102 lead.
But there was a lot more action left.
George missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining and the Suns had a
chance to win, but it looked as if it wouldn't happen when Mikal Bridges missed
a corner 3-pointer and the ball was deflected out of bounds.
Instead, it set up Crowder's heave to Ayton, who was dominant in the paint all
Even with his big night, George's missed free throws loomed large.
"He is alright," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. "It is part of the game. Guys
know without him we wouldn't be in the game anyway."
The Suns have won a franchise-record nine straight in 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 22
points and 14 rebounds, while Booker added 20 points.
"We just had no answer for Cameron Payne," Lue said. "He got downhill all
night. His speed and his quickness really hurt us all night."
Payne repeatedly carved through the Clippers defense, making tough buckets at
the rim with pretty left-handed finishes. He made what looked like a crucial
layup with about 90 seconds left, finishing high off the glass to give the Suns
a 100-95 lead.
But the gritty Clippers responded and nearly pulled this one out.
It was a tough night for the stars from Game 1 until the final minutes. Booker
shot just 5 of 16 from the field and missed part of the third quarter with a
bloody nose. George was 10 of 23 from the field 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
in the same draft like Atlanta's Trae Young and Dallas' Luka Doncic. But he has
carved out quite a niche in Phoenix and now has a signature play that will live
on in franchise history.
The Suns were playing without Paul for the second straight game. The 11-time
All-Star has been in the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocol for the
past week and 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 Los Angeles to get 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.
The Suns took a 48-47 halftime lead, largely thanks to Payne and Ayton. Payne
led all scorers with 16 points before the break, thriving in his role as the
fill-in starter for Paul. Ayton added 12 points, punctuated by a soaring
alley-oop dunk over Zubac.
BLOODY BOOKER, BEVERELY
Booker took a shot to the nose late in the third after he bumped heads with
Patrick Beverley, who was playing tight defense. The Suns guard fell to the
floor and was down for a minute before walking back to the locker 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
leave the game and change jerseys.
A foul was called on Beverley. The referees ruled it was not flagrant. Booker
jogged back out onto the court before the fourth quarter to a big roar from the
Clippers: Lue shook up the starting lineup, using Beverley and Zubac in place
of Nicolas Batum and Terance Mann. ... Leonard and forward Serge Ibaka (back
surgery) didn't play. ... Morris was dealing with 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 the same starting lineup for the second straight game, using Payne
in Paul's place.
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