Monday, June 28, 2021 was billed to be one of the greatest nights in Phoenix Suns’ history; the night that CP3 etched his first trip to the NBA Finals; the moment the Devin Booker truly became legendary.
But PG-13 & co. had other plans for the streaking Suns, and placed an X mark on their victorious hopes in what was a wild addition to a roller-coaster series.
The Los Angeles Clippers won 114-102 in a game that was marred not-good-enough efforts by the Suns to take the lead back.
Paul George was excellent in the Clippers win with 41 points on 15-20 shooting and the Clippers as a team shot over 50%. The Suns just had no juice in this one. Devin Booker had 31 points in the loss, but only 6 in the fourth quarter. Chris Paul scored only 6 in the final quarter as well.
Suns will head back to LA for Game 6 on Wednesday night. You didn’t have any plans for Wednesday anyway, right?
It began as a valiantly-fought, hard-nosed battle between the LA Clippers, and the LA Clippers.
That’s right, your Valley Boyz were completely missing in action through the first few minutes of the game, and the only opponent LA was forced to contend with was itself.
The resilient group didn’t stand in their own way.
Ty Lue’s regime knows a thing or two about deficits. They succumbed after building a near-infallible 3-1 advantage in last year’s playoffs against the hungry Denver Nuggets, who brought their house down with some succulent home cooking in an unforgettable Game 7 in the bubble.
And after falling behind 0-2 not once, but TWICE in this year’s postseason gauntlet, they somehow managed to salvage their remnants together and conjure up comeback efforts against both the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, whom were no slouches in their own right.
Despite past odds pitting them in an almost inescapable hole, they were believers, and opened the matchup with an energy that reeked of “we CAN win.”
They’ve been led by dark horses throughout the playoff reign, and where star power has fallen short, role-playing magic has wholly sufficed. Game 5 was no different.
Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris began the outing with indefectible plays of courage and skill. Both were forces to be reckoned with — the former blasted to the rim with an emphatic jam to open the game, while the latter was comfortable and calculated in his post-moves, sinking one shot after another as the Clips built a 7-0 advantage in the first 90 seconds.
Meanwhile, Phoenix couldn’t have bought a basket if they were on sale for $free.99, and they sputtered off to a horrendous start offensively.
The Clippers came out of the gates with a 13-3 lead, shooting 6-7 from the floor as the Suns remained a cumulative question mark offensively.
A Deandre Ayton dunk provided a temporary answer, but Morris & co. charged right back.
The former Sun (Morris suited up alongside his twin brother Markieff for PHX from 2013-15) was unconscious from the field, and after posting a puny 29% percentage through the series’ first four games, he exploded for a perfect 6-6 to open.
“You can talk about it, but the Clippers are being about it.” Mark Jackson’s description of the game’s inception was perfectly worded, and their scoring, plus zone defense squandered the Suns through the first six minutes.
Marcus Morris starts the game 6/6 from the field and easily cashes his Over 10.5 Points Prop ✅ pic.twitter.com/jf3F1iR2D3— Awesemo Odds (@AwesemoOdds) June 29, 2021
But it’s incredibly hard to quench a burning ball of fire.
A vintage Chris Paul mid-range jay made it 20-7, before Bridges pocketed a 3-ball to bring the tally to 20-10.
Devin Booker was fouled on a trey attempt, hitting all three freebies to make it 25-15 at around the 4:30 mark. He deposited an open 3-ball at the top of the key right afterwards, before Cam Payne splashed home a with 3 minutes left to make it 25-21.
LA placed an assertive stamp on its dominant first quarter with two consecutive buckets from DeMarcus Cousins and Reggie Jackson to close the period with a 36-26 edge.
Boogie Cousins boogied on down to open the second period. He shimmied his way to two close-range baskets, before a Paul George jumper brought them to a 14-point lead at 44-30.
Their double-digit edge would be short-lived, though.
CP3 converted on an and-one as he hit another midrange jay, bringing the score to 44-35. Then the Suns got into their offensive rhythm, moving the ball briskly and with purpose, as Ayton, Book and Cam Johnson got in on the scoring barrage to slim the margin to just two (44-42) with 7:18 to play.
It remained a back and forth affair through the three-minute mark, as both teams traded haymakers. But Monty Williams has constantly preaches, Phoenix remained poised, while LA struggled from deep, going just 3-13 from beyond the arc.
D-Book on the other hand, dribbled and sizzled his way to another 3, upping his ratio to 3-3 from downtown with four minutes left to play.
The Clips wouldn’t be denied, though. They opened a 7-0 run to through two closing minutes, taking a 59-49 lead after Morris shut down the crowd with another confident trey.
Shut down? Phoenix’s faithful? Yeah — those two don’t belong together.
This Phoenix crowd has carried these Suns through the best, and worst of times, and Booker returned the favor on an inbounds play with 3.1 left to play in the first half.
He sprinted up court, received a handoff from Ayton, smoothly pumped, and sunk home a sendoff 3-ball as Mike Been rattled off a trademark “Bang!”
It was a symbolic defibrillator for Suns Nation, who had been seeped of its lifeline for a good portion of the first half as the Clippers cut and snipped into their hopes.
But Booker’s three was an air pump to Phoenix’s flat tire, and that airlift was an immortal re-ignition that carried them to the second half.
The Clippers led 59-52 going into the break. Marcus Morris posted 20 PTS, going 8-10 from the floor, and 2-3 from deep. Book finished the first half with nine.
Chris Paul came out of the break with an aggressive scoring mindset, hitting a nifty scoop layup, before Bridges splashed a set shot, and Book found the net with a calm step-back.
And boy, was the crowd sure in love with the 8-2 run. Suns Nation was LOUD, and the fans that have become famous for their rabid support did everything they could to inject this team with an energetic shot.
They got their first lead of the matchup at 8:21 when CP3 fired off a silky pullup, bringing the crowd to a roar with the shockwaves of an earthquake as their team led 62-61 heading into a timeout.
But Paul George put a symbolic shushing finger to his mouth with a beautiful behind-the-back move that led to a step-back jumper, and the Clips found two more baskets to bring their advantage to 67-62.
Then, with 5:53 left, Patrick Beverley was hit with a controversial flagrant after he hit Chris Paul trying to fight through a screen on Paul’s 3-point attempt.
Patrick Beverly mocking Chris Paul is A+++++— ♠ ꜰʀᴀɴᴋɪᴇ ♠ (@FrankiesTwoLoud) June 29, 2021
Beverley added his usual jabber and antics after the play as he mocked Paul’s fall, but Paul stepped to the line with peaceful tranquility, and knocked down his three free throws to make it 71-67.
He then dished out a lob to Deandre Ayton, who guided it in for two, but Morris quieted the crowd again with a savvy turnaround hit over his right shoulder. Two George three’s brought the lead to double-digits again, 79-67.
A Cam Johnson 3-ball brought the count to 82-70, but Ayton, Johnson and Book catapulted their team on another 8-0 run to cut the led to 84-78.
But PG continued his Rated-R offense, hitting another three, this time a 26-footer before Batum and Cousins came up with immense hustle plays to up the Clippers’ lead to 91-78.
The Clips outscored the Suns 48-20 in the paint through 3.
Once again, Monty Williams’ traditional mantra rang true, and Phoenix came out with a stark belief that they could pull out a victory.
Torrey Craig netted an and-one, before Dario Saric made a layup on a Paul assist to bring it to 93-83 just 60 seconds into the quarter.
And somehow, someway, the Suns were able to come up with massive miracle defensive plays that resulted from pure heart. Devin Booker speedily got to his spots, knocking down consecutive tough shots over outstretched hands, before a Chris Paul ankle-breaker brought the Suns’ deficit to five, at 96-91.
Cam Johnson followed that up with a strong and-one finish on a fast break with 6:58 left, shooting a torpedo wave of cheers through the Suns Arena.
Cam Johnson's play this series >>> pic.twitter.com/gZxqfMtmEC— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) June 29, 2021
“BEAT LA” chants echoed about the atmosphere, and it looked as if the Suns might pull off a movie-esque comeback to defeat their conference rivals.
The Clips though, must’ve taken that personally.
They smacked PHX in the face with a 14-2 run through the next 3 and a half minutes, led by George’s brazen heroics, and Reggie Jackson’s timely 3-balls as they shut the door on the Suns to take a 116-102 win.
George would finish the affair with 41 points on a whopping 15-20 from the floor, adding 12 boards and three steals. Reggie Jackson posted 23 points on 8-14, and Marcus Morris had 22. DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 in 11 minutes.
Devin Booker recored 31 points in 42 minutes for the Suns, while Chris Paul rattled off 22 on 8-19 shooting. Cam Johnson went 5-6 from the field, posting 14.
It’s a punch to the gut no doubt for a franchise that was ready to embark on a victorious saunter into the NBA Finals.
But these Suns still hold the advantage in the series up 3-2, and have proven they can win postseason games both on the road and at home. If they can hold true to Williams’ repetitive “poise” calling card, they’ll be fine. Game 6 tips off Wednesday night.