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Clippers’ comeback falls short in Game 4 loss to the Phoenix Suns

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Clippers guard Terance Mann is fouled by Suns guard Devin Booker late in the first half of Game 4.
Clippers guard Terance Mann is fouled by Suns guard Devin Booker late in the first half of Game 4 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Paul George once again misses a late, critical free throw as the Clippers lose 84-80 to the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers trail the series, 3-1.

Recapping the Clippers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

Reggie Jackson: Clippers are ‘ready for the challenge’ of elimination game

Highlights from the Clippers’ 84-80 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday.

The Clippers are no strangers to a playoff series deficit, but this latest hole is unlike one they’ve seen this year.

After Saturday’s 84-80 loss at Staples Center, the Clippers trail the Suns 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals and must win Monday in Phoenix to keep their season alive. It’s no easy feat: teams leading 3-1 are 52-4 in conference finals.

The Clippers need three straight wins to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time, but they’re just focused on getting one in Game 5.

“The most important thing is to figure out how we can be better [than] this game,” Clippers guard Reggie Jackson told reporters after the game. “We’re ready for the challenge.”

Jackson said he believed the Clippers played well defensively, but was disappointed in his own offensive performance. He had 20 points on eight-of-24 shooting.

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson battles Suns center Deandre Ayton during Game 4.
Clippers guard Reggie Jackson battles Suns center Deandre Ayton during Game 4 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Jackson is likely not the only player looking for a better offensive showing, especially after a hard-to-watch fourth quarter.

The teams were seven-of-39 shooting from the field in the fourth. They combined for 29 points. It was painful.

For the Clippers, it must have felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. Or, more specifically, 12 cuts, as in 0-for-12 on shots to take the lead or tie in the fourth quarter.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

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Clippers comeback falls short in Game 4

Suns forward Mikal Bridges charges into Clippers forward Nicolas Batum for a third quarter turnover in Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

No comeback this time.

The Clippers tried to rally from a 14-point deficit in the second half but fell short after a disjointed offensive effort in the fourth quarter doomed them to an 84-80 loss to the Suns. Phoenix now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1.

The teams battled through an ugly fourth quarter in which they combined for 29 points.

The Clippers pulled to within one with 10:07 remaining but missed the opportunity to tie the score when Paul George split a pair of free throws.

George scored 23 points and had 16 rebounds, but free throws again haunted the Clippers star.

With seven seconds remaining and down by three, George missed another free throw that forced him to purposefully miss the second attempt. The Clippers earned two more free throws from DeMarcus Cousins, who drew a foul while battling for George’s missed shot, but he made only one and the Clippers didn’t secure an offensive rebound.

Clippers-Suns finals schedule
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Reggie Jackson had 20 points with five rebounds while Ivica Zubac had 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Deandre Ayton dominated for the Suns with 18 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots. Chris Paul had 16 points and seven assists.

Devin Booker fouled out in the fourth quarter with 25 points.

The Clippers will play for their postseason survival on Monday in Phoenix while the Suns try to close out the series in five.

Highlights from the Clippers’ 84-80 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday.

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Chris Paul free throws push lead back to three

Suns guard Chris Paul tries to pass around Clippers center Ivica Zubac and guard Patrick Beverley during Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Down by one point, the Clippers nearly forced a turnover on the Suns’ inbounds attempt, but instead had to settle for sending Chris Paul to the free-throw line with seven seconds remaining.

Paul calmly made both shots to put the Suns up 81-78. The Clippers called a timeout.

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One-point game after free throws from Paul George

Paul George made two free throws with 13.2 seconds remaining to pull the Clippers within one again: 79-78.

The Suns called a timeout and won’t have Devin Booker on the court since he fouled out.

George has 22 points and 15 rebounds.

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Clippers win challenge to reverse foul called on Patrick Beverley

Instead of Devin Booker going to the free throw line with a chance to put the Suns up by seven, Booker will head to the bench with his sixth foul. Patrick Beverley’s blocking foul was changed to an offensive foul on Booker after a coach’s challenge from Tyronn Lue.

The Clippers responded with a layup from Terance Mann that pulled them within three, down 79-76 with 53.1 seconds left.

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Defensive slugfest in the fourth quarter

Clippers forward Paul George is fouled by Suns forward Torrey Craig during the second half of Game 4.
Clippers forward Paul George is fouled by Suns forward Torrey Craig during the second half of Game 4 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Suns have pulled ahead 79-74 with 1:34 remaining. The slim deficit seems like a huge hill for the Clippers considering how poorly both teams have played on offense in the fourth quarter.

The Suns have 10 points in the fourth. The Clippers have eight. The teams are a combined nine-of-52 shooting from three-point range.

Ivica Zubac has 13 points and 14 rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes.

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Reggie Jackson with another 20-point game

Clippers forward Paul George hugs guard Reggie Jackson as they rally against the Suns in the second half of Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Reggie Jackson sank a mid-range jumper with 4:56 remaining to again cut the Clippers’ deficit to one, 75-74.

Jackson has now scored 20 or more points in five of the last playoff six games. The other game was a 19-point performance in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

A lob from Chris Paul to Deandre Ayton broke a nearly four-minute scoring drought in the game and pushed the Suns lead to three. The Clippers responded with two free throws from Jackson to pull back to within one.

The scoring is a welcome sight after a painful fourth quarter for both sides.

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One-point stalemate

Suns guard Devin Booker shoots over Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers have missed seven straight shots since cutting the lead to one, but the Suns haven’t scored either. The score hasn’t changed in more than three minutes as the teams stay stuck at 71-70 with 6:35 to go.

Devin Booker has a game-high 21 points while Deandre Ayton has 17 points and 20 rebounds for the Suns.

Paul George has 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for the Clippers.

The Clippers are outscoring the Suns 4-2 in the fourth quarter.

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Devin Booker picks up technical as Clippers pull within one

Two made free throws from Paul George after Devin Booker was called for a technical foul have the Clippers down 71-70 with 10:07 remaining.

George had a chance to tie the score but missed a free throw. Booker was T’d up after he fouled George and gave him an extra shove. It was Booker’s fourth foul.

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Another Clipper comeback?

The Clippers are no strangers to this situation.

After trailing by 14 at the half, the Clippers got to within two in the third quarter and enter the fourth trailing by three points, 69-66. Reggie Jackson led the comeback effort in the third quarter and has 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting.

Along with double-doubles by Paul George and Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann has 10 points in 21 minutes.

Deandre Ayton is dominating with 17 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots. Devin Booker, who has removed the plastic mask intended to protect his broken nose, has 19 points on six-of-16 shooting.

The Clippers scored 36 points in the first half then rallied for 30 points in the third quarter.

Part of the surge might have been better shot selection. The Clippers attempted 22 three-pointers in the first half and made only four. They tried three in the third quarter (making one) and instead rallied by attacking the paint. They have 32 points in the paint compared to 34 from the Suns.

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Double-doubles for Paul George, Ivica Zubac

Suns center Deandre Ayton looks to control a rebound during Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Ivica Zubac has 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers continue to close the gap against the Suns. The Clippers trail 65-63 with 2:00 to go in the third quarter.

Paul George has 16 points and 10 rebounds, all defensive.

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Clippers within five

It’s about time.

The Clippers have finally found some offense and now trail 63-58 with 3:30 to go in the third after trailing by 14 at halftime.

Reggie Jackson has 14 points, including a three-pointer that forced the Suns to take a timeout, and Paul George has 15.

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Patrick Beverley picks up technical foul

The Clippers cut the deficit to 10 points, but are struggling to get into single digits. A technical foul on Patrick Beverley helped the Suns push the lead back to 13 after Chris Paul made the free throw.

The Clippers now trail 57-46 with 7:00 to go in the third quarter.

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The wrong kind of record

Many parts of the West Coast are preparing for a record-setting heat wave, but the Clippers did not get the memo.

Times reporter Andrew Greif notes that the 36 points scored in the first half is the worst for the Clippers this posteason by far.

The Clippers were 13-of-44 (29.5%) shooting from the field in the first half and four of 22 from three-point range. They have seven turnovers as the third quarter begins.

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Suns dominate first half, take 14-point lead

Clippers forward Paul George tries to grab a loose ball between Suns center Deandre Ayton and forward Jae Crowder.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers trail 50-36 at halftime, a 14-point deficit that feels more like a 30-point hole.

While Deandre Ayton flirted with a first-half double-double (15 points, nine rebounds), the Clippers struggled to get one player in double-digit scoring. Paul George leads with 11 points on a labored three-of-11 shooting.

The Clippers were less than a minute away from tying their franchise record for fewest points in a half of a playoff game, which was 33, but avoided total disaster with a three-pointer from Reggie Jackson with 26.5 seconds remaining. It was the team’s fourth three-pointer on 22 attempts.

Ivica Zubak has six points and nine rebounds.

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Devin Booker picks up third foul

One thing is going right for the Clippers in the first half: Devin Booker’s foul count.

The Suns star picked up his third foul with 2:49 remaining in the second quarter. Phoenix leads 44-29 as the Clippers continue to slog through the half.

Paul George is the only Clipper in double-digit scoring with 11. No one else on his team has more than four points.

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Paul George finally ends Clippers drought

Paul George ended a six-minute scoring drought for the Clippers, but the Suns responded immediately with a three-pointer from Cameron Payne.

The Clippers trail 44-28 with 3:02 remaining in the second quarter.

George has 11 points.

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Clippers in midst of five-minute scoring drought

Suns guard Cameron Payne, left, and Clippers guard Terance Mann have words during Game 4.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Suns have scored 10 straight points to take a 41-26 lead with 4:00 left before halftime. The Clippers haven’t scored since the 9:48 mark in the second quarter.

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Suns extend lead to 13 points

The Suns have their largest lead of the series after a layup from Deandre Ayton put them ahead 39-36 with 7:21 remaining in the second quarter.

Ayton has a game-high 13 points while the Clippers continue to struggle with their shooting. They’re just three of 19 from three-point range and 10 of 33 overall.

Paul George, with a team-high eight points, has not played in the second quarter. Considering how much he’s been counted on this series, it’s unlikely he’ll spend much more time on the bench during this critical Game 4.

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Cold-shooting Clippers trail after first quarter

Suns guard Cameron Payne is hit in the face by Clippers forward Nicolas Batum as he passes the ball during Game 4.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Clippers trail 29-20 after the first quarter, shooting just 29.2% from the field compared to the Suns’ 50%.

Paul George is two-of-10 shooting from the field for eight points and has made just one of seven three-pointers. The Clippers are three-of-15 shooting from three-point range as a team.

On the other hand, Deandre Ayton is dominating for the Suns with 11 points and six rebounds in 12 minutes. He feasted on smaller Clippers lineups and has made four of five shots from the field.

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Another technical as tempers rise

A few minutes after Paul George was given a technical, the Suns’ Cameron Payne got T’d up for shoving Terance Mann.

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Paul George gets T’d up

Paul George was given a technical foul for a brief exchange with Devin Booker after Booker fouled George driving to the basket. Tempers seem to be rising for both teams in Game 4 as Deandre Ayton and Marcus Morris Sr. exchanged some words heading into the timeout.

The Clippers trail 21-13 with 3:34 remaining in the first.

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Terance Mann comes off the bench

Terance Mann is the first player off the bench for the Clippers as they trail 20-9 with 4:28 remaining in the first quarter.

The Suns opened a 12-point lead, their largest advantage of the series, but Paul George answered with a three-pointer for his first points of the night. It sparked a 7-0 run for the Clippers.

Devin Booker ended the run with a mid-range shot off a Clippers turnover. Booker has six points.

The Clippers were forced to take another timeout after Deandre Ayton stretched the lead back to 11 on a put-back of a Booker missed layup.

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Clippers take early timeout; trail 10-2

The Suns have jumped to a 10-2 lead, forcing Clippers coach Tyronn Lue to take a timeout with 9:45 remaining in the first quarter.

The Suns have made four of six shots with four of their five starters in the scoring column. Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton each have three points.

A dunk from Ivica Zubak accounts for the only Clippers points.

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Game on

Suns forward Jae Crowder celebrates after scoring early in Game 4.
Suns forward Jae Crowder celebrates after scoring early in Game 4 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Suns won the tip and we’re off for Game 4.

Deandre Ayton earned a quick and-one on the first possession and the Suns go up 3-0.

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Pregame views from Staples Center

The Clippers have rolled out the free T-shirts for Game 4, alternating red and blue shirts across sections. Times reporter Brad Turner has the pre-game view from Staples Center.

Photographer Robert Gauthier is also on the scene and zeroed in on Suns star Devin Booker during pregame warmups. After taking a shot to the face in Game 2, Booker is wearing a protective face mask for the second straight game.

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Marcus Morris returns to starting lineup

Marcus Morris Sr. is back in the starting lineup for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Suns. He has been battling a sore knee and played 24 minutes off the bench in the Game 3 win, contributing eight points and five rebounds.

The Suns are sticking with the same starting lineup from Game 3.

For the Clippers:

  • Paul George
  • Marcus Morris Sr.
  • Ivica Zubac
  • Patrick Beverley
  • Reggie Jackson

For the Suns:

  • Mikal Bridges
  • Jae Crowder
  • Deandre Ayton
  • Devin Booker
  • Chris Paul

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Chris Paul can’t change past, but the present might be in his hands

Suns guard Chris Paul is closely defended by Clippers forward Paul George during Game 3.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The white in Chris Paul’s big, brown eyes had reddened, tears resting in the corners. Basketball had broken his heart — a loss so inconceivable that he struggled to explain how it just happened.

He slumped forward and his voice cracked.

The Clippers had just blown an unthinkable lead — up seven points with 50 seconds left in a crucial Game 5 against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Had they won, the Clippers probably were headed to the Western Conference finals. Maybe even to the NBA Finals. After they lost, they crumbled, the weight from the stunning defeat coupled with the stress from the early days of Donald Sterling scandal way too much to handle.

In the collapse, Paul committed an almost unbelievable backcourt turnover, fouled a three-point shooter and failed to attempt a game-tying shot. It was a combination of bad luck, an unfriendly whistle and just enough panic that left him in ruins inside that Oklahoma City interview room while the cameras snapped and the reporters scribbled on their notepads.

“It’s me,” Paul said that day. “Everything that happened at the end is on me.”

When things have gone well, like this season in Phoenix, some sort of calamity always seems ready to pounce, whether it was a shoulder injury minutes into the first round of the playoffs or a positive COVID test right after the Suns swept their way into the Western Conference finals.

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Clippers new action plan: More minutes for Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley disrupts the dribble of Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 3.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

They have become key contributors for the Clippers when coach Tyronn Lue has called upon bruising center Ivica Zubac and defensive pest Patrick Beverley in the Western Conference finals.

They have been determined performers when Lue re-inserted Zubac and Beverley into the starting lineup in the best-of-seven series against the Phoenix Suns that resumes with Game 4 on Saturday night at Staples Center.

They did not complain when they lost their starting jobs or when Beverley didn’t play in some playoff games or Zubac played sparingly as the Clippers continued to advance in the postseason.

Instead, Zubac and Beverley supported their teammates and waited for their opportunity to contribute, and now both are delivering against the Suns.

“They have been phenomenal,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s what winners do. They want to win. Whatever it takes, they are going to do that so I’m just happy for those guys to finally get their moment.”

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Reggie Jackson plays Mr. June again in Clippers’ Game 3 win

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, top, ties up Suns forward Cameron Johnson.
Clippers guard Reggie Jackson (1) ties up Suns forward Cameron Johnson during Game 3 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

His night was complete, his job done well, so all that was left for Reggie Jackson as he was leaving the Staples Center court following yet another sterling Game 3 performance by the Clippers was for the guard to share a hug with happy team owner Steve Ballmer.

Jackson had delivered big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter Thursday night in this best-of-seven Western Conference finals, each basket more important than the previous, all of them needed to help the Clippers slow the momentum that the Phoenix Suns were building in the second half.

So, after he rattled in 10 of his 23 points in the fourth, Jackson and Ballmer embraced, the two of them swaying and smiling.

After having played 32 minutes 54 seconds, after having played a pivotal role in the Clippers taking a 106-92 win over the Suns, Jackson credited teammates for his success.

“They’ve empowered me,” Jackson said. “Honestly, this team has empowered me, this organization has empowered me since the time that I have been here. From playing early, to not playing, having DNPs, roles changing throughout the year. I think once I started to find some comfortability and just practicing and having roles throughout the game change, finding some success.”

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Clippers slow down Devin Booker, and he says mask is not the problem

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley disrupts the dribble of Suns guard Devin Booker.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley disrupts the dribble of Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 3 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Phoenix Suns had won their way back into their first-round playoff series, surviving a second consecutive bad night from their star scorer against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The NBA’s best defense had smothered Devin Booker, forcing him into missing two-thirds of his shots in Games 3 and 4. With a pivotal Game 5 on the horizon, Suns coach Monty Williams told Booker the same two words he always tells his guys when adversity hits.

“Go hoop,” Williams said.

But he said more, pushing Booker to force his way out of the slump, to find the first open window in Game 5 and shoot on his first touch. Eighty-eight seconds in, Booker drilled that first shot — a three — on his way to 18 first-quarter points.

Slump busted.

But here they are again, Booker repeatedly missing shots and the Suns desperately needing him to just “go hoop.”

In the seven games that followed his mini-slump against the Lakers, Booker averaged more than 31 points on 53% shooting, easily bouncing the Lakers out of the postseason before leading a sweep of the Denver Nuggets.

The Clippers were walking that same path — Booker scored 40 in a Game 1 triple-double — before they made an adjustment and sent Patrick Beverley to go disrupt things.

Like so many of coach Tyronn Lue’s adjustments, this one has worked — the Clippers forcing Booker into consecutive rough shooting nights, the team just 0.9 seconds away from a 2-1 lead over Phoenix after handily beating them 106-92 Thursday night at Staples Center.

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