The many official reviews, challenges, exasperated sighs and chippy plays culminated on Wednesday night at Staples Center into straight-up anger on the part of the shorthanded Clippers. The series had clearly been physical, and both sides had every reason to be desperate to seize a trip to the Finals in a wide-open NBA postseason. But after suffering their own surprise loss at home earlier in the week, the Suns came ready to fight.
After a fourth quarter bucket from Chris Paul that cemented the Suns’ lead, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley reared back and shoved Paul to the ground from behind. Beverley had already been called for a flagrant foul earlier in the game, and the shove earned him an automatic ejection.
Beyond that, the outburst showed the Suns they had not only taken control of the basketball game, but they were in the Clippers’ heads.
“There’s no better sign of defeat than that moment,” said Jae Crowder postgame, “where competition meets and you can’t do anything else to help your team overcome that situation, and he just broke.”
It wasn’t just Beverley. A tangle under the basket led to a technical foul by DeMarcus Cousins for making contact with Paul. A historic two weeks of basketball from Paul George ended in exhaustion. After the game, Reggie Jackson would be reduced to tears after giving so much during this postseason run.
In the end, the Suns were just the better team, and they came into Game Six executing at a high level against the Clippers, beating their zone with player movement and pace while forcing George into misses and bad decisions.
“We just wanted to reach a level of competitiveness and togetherness to overcome whatever comes with this game,” Crowder continued, “and once we knew we had the game won, we knew at some point they would break.”
Before long, Beverley would take to social media to apologize to Paul and admit the game just got the best of him. Whether they make amends at any point is somewhat irrelevant. It proved Crowder’s point — Beverley broke.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported that Beverley could be suspended for the start of next season.
Haynes’ story also features a gutting quote from Paul’s brother, C.J.:
“I just think it built up on Pat. That’s not a way to end it. I don’t know why he did that. I’ve looked at the play a few times and all Chris did was look at him, and that look was everything. That’s when you knew he took his heart. It’s crazy.”
Took his heart! I’ll add: Ate it whole. Against the team that failed to make it work with him, against the player he was traded for at the end of his Clippers tenure, Paul went for the kill.
Hardly anyone will remember Beverley’s shove now that the Clippers lost. That’s probably why he did it, knowing the game was out of reach. But it symbolized the level of sheer destruction that the Suns wrought on Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
With a trip to the Finals on the line, this young team and their grizzled leader came together to not only win, but turn their opponent into mush.