The Phoenix Suns are one win away from the NBA Finals. They outlasted the Clippers in a gritty, old-school, defence-first contest to win Game 4 and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Devin Booker led all scorers with 25 but he fouled out of the game with a minute left. Chris Paul, who finished with 18 points and seven assists, knocked down five clutch free-throws in the final seven seconds of the game to seal the deal.
Deandre Ayton was arguably the best player on the floor for a large portion of this game while for the Clippers, four players scored in double figures led by Paul George's 23, 12 of which came from the free-throw line. Reggie Jackson, the team's reliable second scorer, chipped-in with 20.
Here's a quick look at the biggest takeaways from the game:
CP3, Booker set tone early for bounce-back game
The Suns put Game 3 behind them quickly, jumping to a 12-2 early lead. Chris Paul was responsible for eight of those points, six of which came off assists
What a way to start the game! pic.twitter.com/pDGZ88NQeh- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 27, 2021
Phoenix used that momentum to finish with a 29-20 lead after the first 12 minutes.
Although Booker finished with his third straight off-shooting game from the field, he started off well with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field in the first quarter.
Clippers shooting struggles early
This was a sort of 'must-win' for the Clippers. A victory would tie up the series, otherwise, they go down 3-1 and the game didn't start too well for the hosts.
Trailing by their largest deficit of 16 in the first half, the Clippers were behind 50-36 at the half.
The hosts, who had the beat 3-point percentage in the NBA during the regular season, struggled mightly in the first half.
The Clippers were held to 36 points in the 1st half, tied for their fewest points in the 1st half of a playoff game in franchise history.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 27, 2021
They shot 4-22 on 3-pt FG, tied for their most missed threes (18) in any half of a playoff game in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/lcQC8NQE3i
Although the Suns made just as many 3-pointers as them, they did so on 11 fewer attempts.
Deandre Ayton's huge game
The third-year big man has stamped his authority on this series.
In 41 minutes in Game 4, he stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks and three assists on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.
DEANDRE. AYTON. DOMINATION.@DeandreAyton scores 19 points while tallying #NBAPlayoffs career highs in boards (22) and blocks (4), putting the @Suns up 3-1! #ThatsGame- NBA (@NBA) June 27, 2021
Game 5 - Monday, 9pm/et, ESPN pic.twitter.com/tovZKKCbpi
For a major portion of the game, he was clearly the best player on the floor., finishing the contest with a game-high plus-minus of +8, demonstrating his impact on the floor.
LA bounce back
Given their resiliency during these playoffs, the Clippers weren't going to lie down and let this get away from them.
Coming out of halftime, LA punched back with a 30-17 third quarter. Their fight in the third period made it a single-digit game for the rest of the way.
Reggie for THREEEEEE 👌🏾 pic.twitter.com/9Po17F045z- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 27, 2021
The duo of Jackson and George scored (16) or assisted on 24 of the team's 30 points.
With the Clippers coming back, the fourth quarter became a grind-out contest and in the end, their second-half rally wasn't enough.
In the final quarter, the scoring came down to a stop with both teams only combining for 29 points.
The Clippers shot 0-12 in the 4th quarter on shots that could've tied the game or taken the lead.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 27, 2021
That's the most such attempts without a make in the 4th quarter of a game over the last 25 postseasons. pic.twitter.com/lIpSx7FRKU
Rebounds proving crucial
The final shooting numbers for both teams clearly indicated the defence-first nature of this contest.
Both teams shot under 36.0 percent from the field and 20.0% from beyond the 3-point line, which led to a lot of all rebounds. Phoenix, eventually, outrebounded the hosts 64-61.
DeAndre Ayton recorded a career-high (playoffs and regular-season) with 22 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass which is a playoff career-high and one shy of his most ever.
Most rebounds by a Suns player in a playoff game:- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 27, 2021
24 - Charles Barkley
23 - Charles Barkley
22 - Deandre Ayton tonight
(Submitted by @MikoPalero) pic.twitter.com/PDZjLGhJ9r
Mikal Bridges pulled down a career-high 13. For the Clippers, George registered 16, which is tied for his playoff career-high while Ivica Zubac hauled in 14, two shy of his most ever.
Game 3 was just a bump in the road as the Suns rebound to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
They'll have a chance to wrap things up and advance to the NBA Finals in front of their home crowd in Game 5 on Monday, Jun. 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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