Trailing 2-0 heading into Game 3, the LA Clippers found themselves in a familiar position.
The Clippers had already lost the first two games in playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz, and similar to those series they responded emphatically, handling the Phoenix Suns at home to pull out the 106-92 win.
The Clippers now give themselves an opportunity to tie the series at home in Game 4, with the Western Conference Finals now very much a series.
Still without star forward Kawhi Leonard, Paul George continues to carry a significant load on both ends of the floor. Head coach Tyronn Lue admitted he felt George looked fatigued in Game 2, but the multi-time all-star put that aside to finish with 27 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
With Leonard watching on from a suite in the stands, George delivered, playing 43 minutes and overcoming a 9-for-26 shooting night to ensure the Clippers worked their way back into the series.
"My teammates allow me to play. I told myself I'm going to do whatever it takes," George said in a postgame interview with ESPN. "I'm going to give everything I have, I don't care how many minutes I have to play."
Game 3 provided a couple of highlights for George, starting with this one-handed dunk as the Phoenix defence lapsed.
20 for PG-13.- NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2021
13-point LAC lead on ESPN.#PhantomCam #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/4nNAwyG51T
Then came this halfcourt shot to beat the third-quarter buzzer, sending STAPLES Center into a frenzy.
EVERY ANGLE of Paul George's halfcourt 🚨-beater to end the 3Q! #NBAPlayoffs #ThatsGame pic.twitter.com/t5zse5eQB6- NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2021
CP3 returns but the point guard Payne continues
It took only 15 seconds for Chris Paul to announce his return to the floor, with the star guard delivering a perfect bounce pass to the rolling Deandre Ayton for the game's opening bucket. It was the first game for the series for Paul, who had been in the league's health and safety protocol for over a week.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the return of Paul coincided with an injury to Cameron Payne, with the Game 2 hero spraining his left ankle and exiting the game early in the piece.
While Paul will be better for the run, Phoenix will sweat on the health of Payne, who has become a critical piece in the Suns' rotation.
It was a tough night for Paul and fellow star Devin Booker, with the duo struggling with their shot throughout.
Both Paul and Booker were 2-for-10 at the half, with the Suns still remarkably leading 48-46 in an ominous sign for for the Cli
The Masked Man! 📚 @DevinBook gets loose for Game 3 on ESPN. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/uwv98rRSBb- NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2021
Neither was able to find the range in the second half, with Paul (15 points on 19 shots) and Booker (15 points on 21 shots) failing to find the range.
The rust could be expected for Paul after an extended absence, while Booker dealt with harassing defence from Pat Beverley and also could have been impacted by wearing a protective mask to protect a nose injury in Game 2.
Whatever the reason, Phoenix needs their star pair to find the mark in Game 4.
The impressive postseason for Reggie Jackson has continued. Jackson dropped 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting including a dagger three in the final minutes.
There are only 2 players in NBA history to average 3+ three-pointers on 65 TS% in a single playoff run (min 15 games):- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 25, 2021
1. Steph Curry in 2017
2. Reggie Jackson in 2021
Reggie is averaging 18 PPG on 51/42/88% this playoffs. pic.twitter.com/OGL1D6EDIV
Inconsistent throughout his career, Jackson has stepped up to be a reliable second-scoring option in the absence of Leonard.
We already gave Beverley credit for his defensive job on Booker, but he deserves his own section, with his response after a tough Game 1 on Booker one of the storylines of the series.
Constantly talking with Booker throughout, Beverley is forever in the face of Booker, restricting any airspace the dynamic scorer is attempting to find.
Pat Bev plays the D 🔒- NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2021
Reggie on the other end@LAClippers up 11 with 6 minutes left, seeking their first #NBAWCF presented by AT&T win in franchise history! #NBAPlayoffs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/JUgOaiRysA
With the Suns cutting the gap to six points during the fourth quarter it was Beverley who not only came up with a key strip down the stretch but also put the icing on the cake with a three from the left corner that set the crowd alight.
PAT BEV FOR 3.- NBA (@NBA) June 25, 2021
REGGIE JACKSON LOVES IT.
STAPLES CENTER IS ROCKIN'!#ThatsGame #NBAPlayoffs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/BgusRZxb4V
Out of the rotation earlier in the postseason, Beverley is a testament to the old phrase, 'stay ready so you don't have to get ready'.
Ayton continues hot postseason
It was a difficult second half for the Suns but overall it was another impressive performance from Deandre Ayton.
Coming off a magical game-winner last game, Ayton was his productive self in this one, tallying 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-for-13 from the field.
The rising star remains a huge presence in the paint and a dangerous player in pick-and-roll actions, with his offensive emergence one of the stories of the postseason.
One night off and then the fun continues in Game 4 from LA, as the Clippers try to level things up at 2-2.
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