This is no longer an anomaly… right?
For the third consecutive series, the Clippers entered Game 3 down 0-2 and didn’t just win, but won resoundingly. On a night where the duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul shot historically poor, LA used opportunistic defense and a third quarter run to sink the Suns, 106-92. They outworked and out-hustled Phoenix and are suddenly, but perhaps unsurprisingly back in the thick of things
With the win, the Clippers are now tied with the 2005 Pistons for the most double-digit wins (5) when trailing in a playoff series.
In the final seconds of the first half, Paul George heaved a half-court shot and banked it in as the buzzer sounded. He proceeded to blow kisses to LA’s home crowd. The kisses came in a celebratory manner, but in a way seemed reminiscent of an act of thankfulness. Thankfulness for their patience; for their support.
If the kisses weren’t, they should have been.
George could have put Game 2 on ice with two free throws. Instead, he missed both and the rest is history. But on Wednesday, despite a 9-for-26 shooting night and six turnovers, LA’s crowd showered him with MVP chants.
He should be thanking his teammates too.
Ivica Zubac emerged as an unlikely star on Wednesday night. With Deandre Ayton showing no signs of slowing down, Ty Lue elected to go big for stretches of Game 3 and the Clippers reaped the rewards.
In the midst of a slow offensive first half, it was Zubac, not Ayton, who controlled the boards, ensuring the Clippers stay within striking distance in the first half. The center finished the first with seven points and seven rebounds, and entered the half with an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double.
But there were so many other unsung heroes.
Patrick Beverly played smothering defense on both Paul and Booker, helping hold the vaunted scoring duo to a combined 10-for-40 from the field and just 30 points. He played off the crowd too, raising his hands above his head and yelling after every whistle and stoppage. Booker had just one more mad shot (5) than he did turnovers and fouls.
Terance Mann played clean-up, fighting harder than anyone on the court in the third quarter, when he scored 10 of his 12 points, most coming of teammates’ misses.
Then there was Reggie Jackson, but unsung doesn’t seem like the right word for him anymore. Jackson’s 23 points were crucial, but that’s just who he’s been since June. He looked the part of that dynamic scoring guard again on Wednesday.
Yet again, it was LA’s small-ball lineup which ultimately broke the game open, finishing the third quarter on a 21-3 lead.
When the Suns switched to a zone defense, the Clippers continued to fling the ball around the perimeter, finding efficient shots nearly every time down. Just like they did to Gobert and the Jazz, the Clippers forced Ayton to run wing-to-wing, ultimately resulting in open corner threes.
Ayton finished with a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds but a game-worst minus-25 in the plus-minus department.
George finished with a game-high 27 points — now his eighth consecutive 25-plus-point game — 15 rebounds and eight assists. Zubac added 15 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks while Beverly, Marcus Morris Sr., and Luke Kennard each hit a pair of threes.
With Kawhi Leonard’s return date still hazy, LA will need another team effort and hopefully equally rambunctious crowd should they hope to even the series on Saturday.
213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.