The LA Clippers put up a valiant effort but could not pull off the win as the fell behind 2-1 with a 129-124 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of their first round playoff series.


In what’s become all too familiar for Clippers fans, the team was dealt a crushing blow mere hours before Game 3 when it was announced that Kawhi Leonard was ruled out with a right knee sprain.

All of the confidence from the first two games of the series seemed to wash away. Despite the absence of Paul George, there was a feeling that the Clippers could actually make this series competitive if not flat out give themselves a legit shot to pull off the upset.

Leonard’s status for the rest of this series is now up in the air, but Clipper Nation showed up in full force for Game 3. With the arena seats adorned in blue shirts that read: ‘All hands on deck,’ it felt like a perfect mantra for how the Clippers needed to approach the game.

And for the most part, they did. The Clippers sure didn’t act like they were short-handed, and thanks to a Marcus Morris three point shot that banked in at the buzzer, they found themselves all knotted up at 27 at the end of the first quarter.

Each time the Suns looked like they might pull away, the Clippers would respond with a run of their own to get right back in it. Norman Powell, starting the game in place of Leonard, led the offensive attack with his patented drives to the basket as well as having a hot hand from the perimeter. He finished with 42 points and shot 7-12 from three-point range.

The Clippers fell behind by double-digits a few times in the second half, but a strong surge from a five guard lineup of Powell, Russell Westbrook, Bones Hyland, Terance Mann and Eric Gordon had them in the game up until the very end.

According to head coach Tyronn Lue, there were two key things that doomed the Clippers.

“Free throws were huge, and Devin Booker,” Lue said after the game. “We had some bad fouls and we got in the penalty early. We want to bring the physicality but we got to be a little smarter, we can’t foul off the ball.”

Booker did his damage throughout the game. He finished with a game-high 45 points and the Clippers were unable to find an answer for him at any point in the game.

“His speed and shiftiness gave us a lot of problems,” Lue said. “He was able to reject the fires, reject the blitzes, split the blitzes. . when you’ve got a great player like that, it’s hard to kind of keep him under control when it’s so easy to start the game.”

Although the Clippers have to back to the drawing board to try and find some winning combinations for Saturday, there is a sense of optimism surrounding the team in that they competed and gave themselves a shot despite being undermanned.

Since Powell has been on the team, it’s something he’s noticed in that this group never believes that they are completely out of any given game.

“I think it’s the culture that we have, the effort and the belief that we have in the coaching staff and in each other,” Powell said. “I think everybody has the experience and knows what it takes to win, has the will to win. When we play with effort the way we did tonight and the way we do consistently, things are going to work out for us. I just think it’s the culture that’s been built with T-Lue and the guys. That’s the biggest thing.”

David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

David is in his sixth season as credentialed media at Los Angeles Clippers games and second season covering the team for 213 Hoops. He also covers the game at the college and high school levels. When his professional basketball dreams did not materialize, he turned to the next best thing, writing about it.

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