Suns overcome a host of obstacles in emotional Game 2 win
Deandre Ayton # 22 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates in the dying minutes against the LA Clippers in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at the Phoenix Suns Arena on June 22, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
The Suns won more than one playoff game on Tuesday night. They have conquered their worst nightmare.
They beat the clock. They beat the officials. They beat the ghosts of the past playoffs. They beat a Clippers team that bloodied and tormented Devin Booker.
And somewhere in Southern California, after watching his teammates score their ninth straight playoff victory, Chris Paul surely had a message for referee Scott Foster’s nemesis:
Ball don’t lie.
Rarely does a basketball game give you so much delirium and ecstasy. The final moments of the Suns’ 104-103 victory were marked by heart-wrenching delays, replay criticism and controversial whistles. It featured a quick choke job from Clippers star Paul George. This culminated in yet another masterpiece of Monty Williams’ game design, an exquisite Jae Crowder pass with less than a second to play, perfectly fueling a soaring Deandre Ayton on the edge.
The dunk and the eruption of mobs that followed almost blew up the roof of the arena. It commemorates one of the most influential and incredible pieces in franchise history.
“I’m going to start off by saying that he’s definitely Jae’s game winner, making a great pass on a 7-footer,” said Ayton. “And the coach wrote a great piece.”
Williams also put together a nice set of inbounds which led to a decisive dunk by Booker in the dying moments of Game 1, but wanted no part of the credit.
“You can sit here and talk about the pieces being worked on and all that,” Williams said. “Our guys just made plays and stayed with it. When the whistle didn’t go our way, when the ball came out on Book, I thought we had a really good balance.
And who would have ever thought that Booker would be used to pick a winning coin?
“I hadn’t thought of it,” Booker said.
At various points, Game 2 threatened to conspire against the Valley’s championship dreams: there was the presence of Foster, who Paul says is leading a personal vendetta against the famous playmaker. questionable whistle increased the level of tension inside Suns Arena.
There was the bloody gash on Booker’s nose, eerily akin to an injury that took Steve Nash out of a key playoff game against Spurs. There was the maddening flop of Patrick Beverley, who harassed and harassed Booker in one of his worst playoff games.
But the Suns simply refuse to lose. Ayton had another beastly game, scoring 24 points on 12 of 15 shots and adding 14 rebounds. He called the game-winning dunk the best game of his career, even though it was seen again for an endless amount of time, leading Valley fans to hope for the best and fear the worst.
“The celebration was a bit shaky because I wasn’t too sure what I had done,” Ayton said. “I was so anxious. I was really stressed out. It was a lot.
It was also the second outrageous alley-oop flow from Crowder to Ayton in Game 2, and the perfect reward for a player who becomes an NBA star.
“Amazing, amazing execution,” Booker said. “Again, Jae Crowder… it’s a tough pass.”
So the drama continues. Booker might have a broken nose, possibly needing a mask (“It’s a little crooked, so we’ll see). It has been reported that Paul may be cleared for a Game 3 return to Los Angeles, and not a minute too early. Meanwhile, the legend of Cam Payne continued to grow.
At the bottom, the Suns guard had to drag his suitcases through the streets of China because no one from his new team bothered to pick him up at the airport. Payne scored 29 points in 37 minutes, helping the Suns navigate a ragged offensive performance. And once again, he showed up to a post-game press conference wearing this legendary hat with the “LA” logo upside down.
The Clippers have already recovered from a pair of 2-0 streak deficits in the 2021 playoffs. They are no strangers to adversity. But this time, they have to reconcile those stray free throws from George, mistakes that seemed to be more than poetic justice.
Combined with Ayton’s winning dunk, it could spell the end of the Clippers, who must realize they are facing an emotional juggernaut. They must evoke four wins in five games against a Suns team that seems unbreakable. Even on a bad night.
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