Deandre Ayton dunks the ball over Ivica Zubac in leading the of the Phoenix Suns to a 104-10-3 win over the LA Clippers in Game 2 of their Western Conference finals. (AFP)
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Deandre Ayton made the go-ahead catch and dunk with one second left and a bloodied Devin Booker scored 20 points as the Phoenix Suns shocked the Los Angeles Clippers, 104-103, in Game 2 of their NBA playoff series.
Booker shook off a cruel clash of heads that left him bloodied and bruised, returning to the game as the Suns took down the Clippers in a see-saw fourth quarter to win their ninth straight and seize a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
“It was like a Muhammad Ali fight with haymaker after haymaker going back and forth,” said Suns guard Cameron Payne, who finished with a career-high 29 points.
Ayton scored the eventual game winner in a thrilling finish as the Suns perfectly executed on their final possession of the game.
The play started with an inbounds pass by Suns forward Jae Crowder who lobbed it directly to the front of the basket where a leaping Ayton was waiting. He caught and then dunked the ball in one motion to give to give the Suns a 104-103 lead with 0.7 seconds left.
Clippers Paul George then put up a desperation shot at the buzzer but it hit the front of the rim and bounced harmlessly away to end the game in front of the crowd of 16,600 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
“Jae made a great pass,” said Ayton, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. “I am glad it counted. We just wanted to finish the game strong.”
If game one in the series was the feel-out game then game two was the knockout punch. Booker had his nose bloodied late in the third quarter when he accidently butted heads with Clippers’ Pat Beverley.
The 24-year-old Booker needed two stitches and may have broken his nose. But rather than let it end his night, Booker returned to power his team to victory with another superb offensive performance.
The Clippers were playing their fourth consecutive playoff game without forward Kawhi Leonard, who is out with a sprained right knee.
“They put a lot of pressure on D-Brook. I hope his nose isn’t broken,” said Ayton.
Payne raised the bar to make 12 of 24 shots from the field and had nine assists with no turnovers. He was starting at guard for the second straight game with Chris Paul out after reportedly testing positive for Covid-19.
George scored 26 points and Reggie Jackson added 19 for the Clippers, who also fell behind 2-0 in their previous series against the top seeded Utah Jazz before rallying to win.
George missed a pair of free throws with 8.2 seconds left that could have put the game out of reach for the Clippers.
“We had a chance to win the game,” said Clippers head coach Ty Lue. “We played, we didn’t win this game, it is unfortunate. It happens.
“We got to go home and take care of business.”
Game three is Thursday in Los Angeles.