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Clippers nearly pull off miracle Game 2 rally but Suns take 2-0 series lead

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Suns guard Cameron Payne tries to score against Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. in Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers were one second away from a Game 2 win before an inbounds play to Deandre Ayton ends with a game-winning dunk. Phoenix leads series 2-0.

The Clippers are on familiar ground after losing to the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Follow along for live updates as the Clippers try to overcome a Game 2 playoff-series deficit for the third time this postseason. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. PDT.

Clippers make a bloody mess of Game 2 in loss to Suns

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton scores over Clippers center Ivica Zubac.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton scores over Clippers center Ivica Zubac during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals on Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Blood ran down the nose of Devin Booker. More pooled in the fabric of Patrick Beverley’s jersey.

The guards’ head-to-head collision, accidental yet perhaps inevitable during a chippy second game of these Western Conference finals, opened not only wounds but also opportunity for the Clippers, who badly needed one. Trailing by seven with 14 minutes remaining Tuesday and an offense that had sputtered at best, they watched as Booker and Beverley both retreated to their locker rooms, the Suns temporarily deprived of their most talented scorer.

Booker emerged from underneath Phoenix Suns Arena more than three minutes later, having received two stitches on the bridge of his nose and a standing ovation. When Beverley returned with a headband covering the spot on his forehead where he held gauze minutes earlier, the two resumed the one-on-one confrontation that had defined so much of this 104-103 Suns victory.

For two hours, Beverley — in his first start since Game 2 of the first round — pestered Booker over screens and through the paint, turning what Booker hoped to be an encore to his victorious Game-1, triple-double masterpiece into a war of attrition. It was Beverley who threw his head back with 66 seconds remaining, selling an offensive foul on Booker to give the Clippers the ball and a chance to tie while trailing 100-97, a possession they used to trim their deficit to just one.

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Paul George’s missed free throws set up Deandre Ayton’s game-winner as Suns take 2-0 series lead

Clippers forward Paul George misses the first of two free throws near the end of the Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers might not have deserved to win, but this loss will go down in franchise lore nonetheless.

With 0.9 seconds left, the Clippers lost track of Deandre Ayton on a baseline out-of-bounds play and the Suns center completed an alley-oop from Jae Crowder to give Phoenix a 104-103 win. There was still half a second left but a desperation three by Paul George came after the buzzer.

The inbounds, which came after George missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds to go that would have put the Clippers up by three, was upheld after review.

“You can sit here and talk about the plays being drawn up,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters. “But our guys just make plays and stuck with it.”

Said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue: “They just made a good play.”

George, whose playoff performances will yet again come under fire after missing free throws in the clutch, finished with 26 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field and 1 of 8 from 3-point range. His attempt at a game-winner was released after time expired and fell well short.

A mid-range jumper from Devin Booker handed the lead back to Phoenix, making it 102-101 with 27 seconds to go.

The Clippers had led after George hit a mid-range jumper to put them up by one with 22 seconds to go, but they trailed for most of the game.

Cameron Payne led the scoring with 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting, followed by Ayton, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds.

For the Clippers, Reggie Jackson had 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Ivica Zubac finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Clippers, still playing without Kawhi Leonard, found themselves with a chance to win despite struggling for much of the night. They shot 45% from the field and 38.2% from 3-point range. Phoenix was 50% shooting from the field, but the Clippers held them to just 6 of 26 from deep, a key in keeping the game close.

The Suns will come to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday having survived two games at home without Chris Paul, with firm control of the series.

“We let this one get away,” Lue said, “but the confidence of this team hasn’t wavered.”

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Clippers take lead; Devin Booker picks up fifth foul

Might another Clippers comeback be in the cards?

Los Angeles leads for the first time since early in the game after an Ivica Zubac block led to a Paul George layup on the other end. It’s 101-100 with 30.9 seconds left in Phoenix.

Earlier, George made a pair of free throws to make it 100-99 with 56.7 to go after Devin Booker committed his fifth foul, hitting George as he came off a screen.

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Paul George throws away inbounds pass, Suns lead by five

Down by five with just more than 1:30 to go, Paul George threw away an inbounds pass intended for Ivica Zubac. After a lengthy review, the Clippers kept the ball after Deandre Ayton was the last to touch it, avoiding a potentially fatal error. Phoenix leads 100-95.

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Both teams struggling to score in last few minutes

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue leads an animated huddle during a timeout in Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

We’re stuck at 93-90 with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter. The last scoring happened at 5:39 when Patrick Beverley cut the Suns’ lead to three with a 3-pointer.

Paul George sat for three minutes midway through the quarter and hasn’t scored since the 9:58 mark. Phoenix hasn’t scored since two Devin Booker free throws at 5:58.

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Luke Kennard has 8 points in the fourth as Clippers trail by three

Luke Kennard has eight fourth-quarter points as the Clippers have cut into Phoenix’s lead.

After a quiet start, Kennard has made two 3-pointers to give the Clippers momentum. The Suns still lead, 88-85, with 6:52 to go, but seem to have missed their window to pull away.

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Devin Booker returns to game after getting stitches

After suffering a cut to his nose when butting heads with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, Devin Booker returned to the Suns bench at the end of the third quarter, receiving a standing ovation from the Phoenix crowd, before returning to the game.

Booker has struggled tonight, scoring 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. Suns coach Monty Williams said on the ESPN broadcast that Booker received stitches.

The Suns hold a 75-74 lead at the start of the fourth.

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Patrick Beverley doesn’t need stitches, will return

According to the Clippers, Patrick Beverley will return to the game after his head-to-head collision with Phoenix’s Devin Booker. He does not require stitches, despite a forehead laceration. Beverley has three points in 18 minutes, with most of his contributions coming on defense.

Booker, according to coach Monty Williams during a TV interview, is getting stitches.

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Devin Booker bleeding after butting heads with Patrick Beverley

The Clippers' Patrick Beverley shows officials blood on his hand after he was called for a foul while defending Devin Booker.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Suns guard Devin Booker went down after butting heads with Patrick Beverley, emerging with a cut on his nose. Beverley also had blood on his jersey and forehead.

Both players went to their respective locker rooms.

It was Beverley’s fourth foul of the game. The Clippers are down 69-62 with 3:20 to go in the thir quarter. Deandre Ayton has put up a big quarter and currently has 20 points and 11 rebounds.

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Suns extend lead early in third quarter behind Cameron Payne

Suns guard Cameron Payne tries to score on a drive against Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. during Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers are going to need to come up with an answer for Cameron Payne.

The point guard is up to 23 points on the night after a nifty finish that prompted Clippers coach Tyronn Lue to call timeout with the Suns having scored four straight points. Payne is just one point away from his career high.

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Patrick Beverley picks up his third foul

Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is fouled by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.
Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is fouled by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Less than two minutes into the second half, Patrick Beverley committed his third foul of the game. With Cameron Payne running in transition, Beverley knocked into his side as he grabbed for the ball, seemingly to attempt to stop the fast break.

The play was reviewed for a flagrant, but ruled a common foul.

Beverley guarded Devin Booker for much of the first half, holding him to 3-of-10 shooting.

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Clippers trail by one at halftime despite poor offensive performance

Clippers forward Paul George (13) is tied up by Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) for a jump ball in Game 2.
Clippers forward Paul George (13) is tied up by Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) for a jump ball in Game 2. A smalls scuffle broke out, leading to technical fouls for Crowder and Clippers forward Marcus Morris.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Suns will feel like they left something on the table in that first half. They go into the break leading the Clippers 48-47, but have outplayed Los Angeles by what feels like a greater margin than that.

Cameron Payne and Deandre Ayton are the game’s two leading scorers, with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Phoenix has held Paul George to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field.

Reggie Jackson is the only Clipper to score double-digit points in the first half. Right now, the Clippers have a 90.6 offensive rating for the game, well below their playoff-long rating of 123.2 points per 100 possessions.

On defense, the Clippers have kept Devin Booker quiet. After 40 points and a triple-double in Game 1, Booker had just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in the first half. Neither Jae Crowder nor Mikal Bridges got into the scoring column for Phoenix in the first half.

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Rondo hitting shots, but Clippers struggle on offense

Here’s a sentence you probably didn’t think you’d read: Rajon Rondo’s 3-point shooting is helping keep the Clippers in it.

Rondo has made both 3-pointers he’s taken, each unguarded, after coming off the bench to start the second quarter. The Clippers’ bench unit has struggled, particularly DeMarcus Cousins, but that’s a bit of a silver lining. The offense, as a whole, continues to struggle, shooting 37.5% from the field, but the Clippers are holding Phoenix to 2-of-9 from three.

We’ll see how long Tyronn Lue sticks with this group, as the Clippers trail 38-34 with 6:10 to go in the first half.

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Clippers down three at end of first quarter

 Suns center Deandre Ayton gets open for a shot against the Clippers in Game 2.
Suns center Deandre Ayton gets open for a shot against the Clippers in Game 2.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

The bad news for the Clippers: they’re trailing at the end of one quarter in Game 2.

The good news: things could be much worse.

The Clippers trail 25-22 despite shooting 9-of-24 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range. They’ve struggled to contain Deandre Ayton, who has 12 points and five rebounds against Ivica Zubac.

Reggie Jackson leads the scoring column for the Clippers with seven. Paul George got going a bit toward the end of the quarter to finish with five, but sits at 2-of-7 shooting from the field, a lackluster start.

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Ivica Zubac dunked on by Deandre Ayton

Ivica Zubac found himself on the wrong end of a highlight.

With the Suns breaking in transition, Jae Crowder found Deandre Ayton on a lob. Ayton caught the pass from the 3-point line and went straight over Zubac for the finish, prompting a roar from the crowd. See the play below:

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Marcus Morris and Jae Crowder handed technical fouls

Marcus Morris and Jae Crowder were assessed technical fouls after Paul George lost his dribble and Crowder stood over him. Morris exchanged words with Devin Booker before the jump ball.

George has struggled early, missing his first four shots and committing a foul. The Clippers lead, 12-11, with 5:10 to go in the first.

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Suns ahead early after 11-2 run

Suns guard Devin Booker bring the ball up court while defended by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.
Suns guard Devin Booker bring the ball up court while defended by Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during Game 2.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue called timeout after an 11-2 run from the Suns put them ahead at 7:03 in the first. Phoenix has six points in the paint, with Cameron Payne adding a 3-pointer. Payne leads the Suns with five points.

The Clippers haven’t scored in more than 90 seconds, since a Reggie Jackson stepback jumper. They currently trail, 11-8.

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And we’re off

Marcus Morris scores the game’s opening points after getting his own rebound, and we’re off in Phoenix.

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Clippers switch up starting lineup, go big with Ivica Zubac

Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) blocks a dunk attempt by Suns guard Devin Booker.
Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) blocks a dunk attempt by Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 1.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

After rolling with a small lineup in Game 1, with Terance Mann and Nicolas Batum starting alongside Reggie Jackson, Paul George and Marcus Morris, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is going big for Game 2. Ivica Zubac, a traditional center, will start with Morris at power forward.

Lue is also going with Patrick Beverley, a defensive-minded guard, in his backcourt. It’s worth watching whether Beverley can slow down Devin Booker, who scored 40 points on his way to a triple-double in Game 1.

The Suns, meanwhile, are still without Chris Paul, who remains in the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Here are the starting lineups for Game 2:

Clippers:

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

Suns:

  • Cameron Payne
  • Devin Booker
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Jae Crowder
  • Deandre Ayton

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NBA roundtable: Welcome to the world of Kawhi Leonard injury updates

Clippers guard Paul George dribbles in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz on June 18.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Los Angeles Times reporters Andrew Greif, Broderick Turner and Dan Woike discuss Kawhi Leonard’s injury situation in a roundtable format.

DW: We just had a great talk during our weekly NBA meeting on Zoom about the Clippers and Kawhi Leonard, a talk the bosses decided we should tape and share with the world. Trouble is no one hit the button to record.

So here we go, Round 2 of what we think is happening with the Clippers’ star who may or may not be out for some unidentified amount of time. Vague enough? Welcome to the world of Kawhi Leonard injury reporting.

What are you two thinking?

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ESPN: Marcus Morris to play in Game 2

Clippers forward Marcus Morris elevates for a shot.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris elevates for a shot during a playoff game.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that Marcus Morris will play in Game 2 after leaving the opening game of the series because of a knee injury.

Morris wasn’t listed on the Clippers’ injury report Monday, with coach Tyronn Lue saying he was still experiencing some soreness. Morris didn’t start the second half of Game 1, later returning to play five minutes in the loss.

Lue told media before Tuesday’s game that Morris would go through warmups before deciding whether to play.

Morris has started all 14 postseason games for the Clippers, averaging 11.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

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Kawhi Leonard might be out, but Clippers say he’s still making an impact

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, and guard Terance Mann celebrate.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, and guard Terance Mann celebrate after taking a commanding lead over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of their playoff series on June 6.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX — It was around 2 p.m. Monday when Kawhi Leonard tried to video chat with his coach, eager to know how the Clippers planned to adjust a day after losing Game 1 of the conference finals in Phoenix while the All-Star forward stayed home nursing an injury.

“But I don’t like FaceTime,” Tyronn Lue said, less than an hour later, chuckling.

Instead, Lue and Leonard, who remains in California receiving treatment for a strained right knee, used text messages. Leonard wanted to understand the adjustments Lue planned for Game 2 on Tuesday to know where the team had succeeded and failed.

“Just being able to hold guys accountable, talking to guys, talking to the players, what we need to do better on what he sees,” the Clippers coach said. “If he knows the game plan, then he can definitely do that.

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Clippers are in a familiar spot: 6 ways they can flip the script

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue (second from left) talks to assistants during a timeout in Game 1.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue (second from left) talks to assistants during a timeout in Game 1 against the Suns on Sunday in Phoenix.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX — The most important thing you need to know about the Western Conference finals is that it’s taking place in a city that feels like a massive pizza oven.

The second-most important thing you need to know is that for the third consecutive series, the Clippers failed to win Game 1. With L.A. star Kawhi Leonard out and Suns star Chris Paul likely on the way back sooner than later, the Clippers don’t have as much time to adjust.

Here are six things they can do to flip Sunday’s 120-114 loss into a win:

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Betting lines and odds for Clippers vs. Suns in Game 2

Here are the latest odds and lines for the Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday:

Clippers line for June 22, 2021.
(VSiN)

For more on the matchup, visit VSiN.com.

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An NBA conspiracy theory about Zion Williamson may be responsible for the Suns’ rise

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson sits on the bench while holding up a ball and smiling.
Some people believe that the NBA wanted to make sure during last year’s bubble restart that Zion Williamson and the Pelicans were included. In doing so, the Phoenix Suns qualified too.
(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

It’s all Zion Williamson’s fault.

He’s not on the Clippers. He’s not on the Phoenix Suns. But depending on your collection of tinfoil hats and contacts within the NBA deep state, he’s the reason why the Suns have been basketball’s hottest team since last August and are playing the Clippers in the Western Conference finals.

The theory goes like this: In an effort to boost ratings for the NBA’s return to action in the bubble last year, the league wanted to ensure Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans had a chance to make the playoffs. And in an effort to shield their capitalistic impulses, they’d add more teams out of the playoff picture.

That meant the Phoenix Suns received a surprise invitation to keep their season alive, the 21st of the 22 teams sent to Orlando, Fla. (only the Washington Wizards had a worse record).

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