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The Clippers bounced back from an 0-2 deficit to get a big win on Thursday night to make their series with the Suns 1-2.
Clippers 106, Suns 92 – The Clippers got back into their series with the Suns with a 106-92 win over Phoenix in L.A. on Thursday night. Paul George led the way with 27 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, a steal and three 3-pointers on 9-of-26 shooting and Reggie Jackson kept it going with 23 points, three assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 9-of-17 shooting. Ivica Zubac, who had been pushed to the side earlier in the playoffs, started and had 15 points, 16 rebounds, a steal and a block, and hit 9-of-10 free throws in 33 minutes, and Terance Mann hit 6-of-8 shots for 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes. Marcus Morris, who had been a barometer for the Clippers in these playoffs, came off the bench and hit just 2-of-4 shots, but also hit two 3-pointers for eight points and five rebounds in the win. Apparently, if Morris is hitting threes the Clippers have a chance to win. No one for the Clippers did anything particularly special, but they still somehow won in a game when Chris Paul made a return from a COVID absence for the Suns. Paul George is still getting a ton of credit, but he didn’t do anything particularly special last night, other than posting a +/- of +23, which was just one point behind Patrick Beverley’s +/-24.
The Suns got a team-high 18 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block on 9-of-13 shooting from Deandre Ayton and Paul returned from a COVID absence for 15 points, two rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two 3-pointers. But he hit just 5-of-19 shots. With Paul back, Cam Payne played just four minutes and obviously was a non-factor after suffering a left ankle injury. This would be a huge story except that Paul is back in action for the Suns. Devin Booker, who was running the NBA playoffs before having his nose broken by Beverley, was clearly bothered by his broken beak and hit just 5-of-21 shots and 1-of-7 3-pointers for 15 points, five rebounds and five dimes. Mikal Bridges had 13 points, six boards and two 3-pointers, Cameron Johnson came off the bench for 12 points, five boards and two 3-pointers and Jae Crowder started and had nine points, six boards and three 3-pointers in the loss. The Suns don’t mind this loss at all and are just happy to have CP3 back in action. The Clippers are hoping to become the first team in NBA history to come back from three 0-2 deficits to reach the NBA Finals and while it’s entirely possible, I just don’t see it happening.
I imagine the Suns will figure things out and Paul will take over in Game 4 on Saturday and the Suns will steal a win in L.A. and put the Clippers’ collective backs up against a wall. Booker now has a game under his belt with a mask and is going to come out with a vengeance on Saturday and the Suns are going to be in the Finals once the Clippers run out of gas. Paul and Booker combined for just 10-of-40 shooting in Game 3 and I don’t see that happening again in Game 4. And the fact that Beverley got away with breaking the nose of Booker without any further scrutiny tells you everything you need to know about what an NBA villain he really is. I wouldn’t put anything past him. The Clippers have already come back from 0-2 twice and I just don't see it happening a third time.
News and Notes
Ime Udoka is the new coach of the Nets, Jason Kidd is set to coach Luka Doncic and the Mavericks and Rick Carlisle has returned to the Pacers to coach their team for the second time.
Game 2 for the Hawks & Bucks is happening tonight and my money is on the Hawks. Trae is a bigger problem for the Bucks than Giannis is for the Hawks. Just sayin’.