The Phoenix Suns finally took a punch without responding in the moment. Chris Paul’s return did not go as planned to say the least.
The Clippers outplayed Phoenix for most of the night and were able to hand the Suns their first playoff loss since May 27th, ending their 9-game playoff win streak.
The Los Angeles Clippers made an adjustment to their starting lineup for the third straight game, rolling with the super small lineup of Zubac, Mann, George, Beverley, and Jackson.
The guard play was not great, and when you combine that with Cameron Payne’s injury it was not an ideal night for the Suns. I expect them to bounce back next game, but there are some issues to sort through.
There are no immediate updates on Cameron Payne’s status moving forward:
No update on Cam Payne from Monty Williams. Said Payne's ankle wouldn't allow him to get back on the floor.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) June 25, 2021
Phoenix shot 38% as a team while the Clippers shot 45% and also made 11 more trips to the charity stripe. This can mainly be attributed to the lack of aggression from the Suns.
It was an extremely sloppy start to the game for the Suns, as they struggled to click offensively in the first quarter amid the return of Chris Paul.
Phoenix trailed 29 to 21 after the first 12 minutes of action. Chris Paul and Devin Booker combined for 0 points on 0-9 shooting in the first quarter.
Cam Johnson, for the second straight game, provided a spark of the bench with 7 first-half points on 3-5 shooting with 4 rebounds and 1 assist to go with solid defense.
Those struggles continued for Paul and Booker but to a lesser degree as they got to the charity stripe and went a combined 5-5 to gain a bit of confidence. They finished the first half combining for 4-of-20 shooting from the field with 14 points (7 each). The positive to take would be their combined 12 assists to 2 turnover ratio.
Phoenix took a two-point lead into the half, leading 48 to 46.
Deandre Ayton led all Suns’ scorers with 10 points on 5-6 shooting from the field to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. As a team, the Suns shot 5-for-18 from three-point range.
An update from Chris Haynes at the half:
Phoenix Suns say Cameron Payne (ankle) will not return tonight.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 25, 2021
The Clippers created some separation in the 3rd quarter, taking control of the game on both ends and showing more passion and desperation, as expected from a team down 2-0.
At one point, they went on a 21-3 run in the third quarter that ultimately ended up being the knockout punch to create enough separation to fend off the Suns’ comeback attempts.
Clippers led 80-to-69 heading into the 4th and final quarter. This half-court heave from Paul Geroge was an absolute backbreaker.
Chris Paul finished with 15 points, 12 assists, 2 turnovers, and 3 steals in his return and shot just 5-of-19 from the field.
Paul Geroge led the way for the Clippers with 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists on 9-for-26 shooting from the field.
Monty Williams and the coaching staff will look to counter some of the Clippers’ adjustments in Game 4 as they look to take a 3-1 edge to close things out back in Phoenix for Game 5.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from this group throughout the season: expect this team to be ready.
Devin Booker said the spirit was high in the Suns' locker room after the loss. That's the way it's been all season not getting too high or low.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) June 25, 2021
Star of the Game
Deandre Ayton- 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 9/13 FG.
Suns at Clippers — Game 4. Saturday at 6 PM MST on ESPN.