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Playoff P saves Clippers season with 41 points in Game 5 win

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Clippers forward Paul George elevates past Suns guard Devin Booker and forward Mikal Bridges (25) for a layup during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Paul George makes 15 of 20 shots, including 3 of 6 from three-point range, in the Clippers’ 116-102 victory over the Suns. Game 6 is Wednesday in L.A.

Follow along as the Clippers try to avoid elimination in the Western Conference finals on Monday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Clippers hold on to win 116-102

Clippers forward Paul George fends off Suns guard Chris Paul before pulling up for a three-pointer late in Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers’ lead was evaporating, their energy waning, their star player making the sort of mistakes that lose you a playoff series and end your season.

Then, their star player started hitting shots. They got a second wind. They built the lead back up, never giving in and leaving Phoenix with a 116-102 victory and a season extended.

After the Suns cut their lead to as little as six points in the fourth quarter, it was the home team that ultimately ran out of energy. The Clippers, who looked to be on the precipice of a devastating loss, finished off the victory and set up Game 6 on Wednesday at Staples Center.

Paul George scored a playoff career-high 41 points on 15-of-20 shooting, leading the Clippers in a hostile Phoenix Suns Arena environment. Marcus Morris had 22 points thanks mostly to a red-hot first quarter and Reggie Jackson continued an impressive postseason with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Video highlights from the Clippers’ 116-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on June 28, 2021.

“PG’s been great for us all year,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters, “and I just don’t understand why it’s magnified so much when he doesn’t play well. ... I’m just happy he came back and played a great game.”

As a team, the Clippers shot 54.8% from the field, easily outstripping the Suns’s 45.8% mark.

Devin Booker led the scoring for Phoenix with 31 points on 9-of-22 shooting. Chris Paul was the only other Suns player to score above 20 points with 22 on 8-of-19 shooting.

The Clippers have made a habit of coming back to win playoff series. They took the first step to doing it for a third straight time on Monday.

“We thrive in this moment,” Paul George said.

For what might be the first time in the history of a franchise defined by doing the opposite, that appears to be true.

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Paul George getting treatment on right eye after Jae Crowder flagrant foul

Paul George received treatment on his right eye after getting fouled during a jump shot by Jae Crowder. Crowder received a flagrant 1 foul for unnecessary contact to the face.

George is staying in the game.

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Reggie Jackson with another highlight-reel dunk as Clippers lead by 12

The Clippers have staved off another rally and their lead is back up to 12 with 4:47 to go.

That’s thanks to Paul George and Reggie Jackson, who threw one down in transition leading into the break. Jackson, who has impressed all playoffs, is up to 23 points on the night on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. George is at 35 on 14-of-19 shooting — a huge performance in a spot where the Clippers need a lot from him.

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Clippers lead down to four in fourth quarter

Clippers forward Paul George is closely defended by Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

If the Clippers were to come unraveled in this game, it would look something like this.

What had been a commanding lead is down to 98-94 with 6:58 left and a Phoenix free throw coming. The Clippers look fatigued.

Paul George, their leading scorer, has committed multiple turnovers and just added a needless foul during a box out. All the momentum is going toward Phoenix, and if the Clippers don’t get it figured out, it could end their season.

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Here come the Suns

Devin Booker has six points in about 80 seconds and the Suns are within seven points of the Clippers early in the fourth quarter.

Booker is up to 31 points in the game, a pullup 10-footer causing Clippers coach Tyronn Lue to call a timeout. The Clippers lead 96-89 with 9:18 to go.

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Clippers hold a commanding lead at the end of three quarters

Clippers forward Paul Georg fights his way past Suns forwards Cameron Johnson (23) and Abdel Nader (11) during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Behind 20 points in the quarter from Paul George, the Clippers have extended their lead.

Headed into the fourth, it’s 91-78. Twelve minutes stand between the Clippers and a trip back to Los Angeles for Game 6.

George is up to 31 points for the game, putting together a performance that could excise any lingering demons from the second game of this series should it translate into a win. Marcus Morris has 22 points and DeMarcus Cousins — getting minutes since Ivica Zubac is out with a knee injury — has an impressive 12 points in nine minutes.

The Suns scored just 26 points in the quarter and will need to put together an impressive comeback to close out the series at home. Besides Devin Booker, their scorers have largely been quiet.

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Paul George leading Clippers in third quarter

Clippers forward Paul George elevates past Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and forward Mikal Bridges (25) for a layup.
Clippers forward Paul George elevates past Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and forward Mikal Bridges (25) for a layup during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers have built their lead back to 12 points, and done so on the back of their superstar. Paul George has 15 third-quarter points and 26 for the game. He’s shot 10 of 14 from the field with five assists, including one to set up a Patrick Beverley 3-pointer that led into the latest timeout.

The Clippers needed this kind of game from George after an up-and-down series, and he’s delivering so far. They’re keeping Phoenix at arm’s length in a must-win game. It’s 82-72 with 3:09 to go in the third quarter.

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Patrick Beverley called for flagrant 1 foul

Suns guard Chris Paul shoots over Clippers center DeMarcus Cousins during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Patrick Beverley was assessed a flagrant 1 after fouling Chris Paul by undercutting him on a shot attempt.

Paul landed hard and Beverley, suspecting him of flopping, made fun of Paul with a dramatized shimmy. Since Paul was in the process of shooting, it was a three-shot foul.

The Clippers lead 71-67 with 5:14 to go in the third quarter.

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Clippers’ lead down to 1

Clippers forward Paul George loses the ball while defended by Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and guard Devin Booker
Clippers forward Paul George loses the ball while defended by Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and guard Devin Booker. during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers have led wire to wire thus far tonight. But that could soon change.

Just three minutes into the third quarter, Phoenix has cut the lead to one. It’s 61-60 after a timeout from Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, and what was a seven-point Clippers lead has almost evaporated.

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Clippers lead by seven points at halftime

Clippers forward Paul George embraces teammate Marcus Morris Sr., left, after he was fouled in Game 5.
Clippers forward Paul George embraces teammate Marcus Morris Sr., left, after he was fouled during Game 5.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

For the first time in the Western Conference finals, the Clippers have a halftime lead.

Despite allowing a Phoenix run early in the second quarter that cut their lead to two points, the Clippers are ahead 59-52 at the half. The Suns got a boost as time expired with a Devin Booker 3-pointer.

Marcus Morris leads the Clippers in scoring with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Paul George had a mostly quiet first half, scoring just 11 points and drawing criticism from the ESPN broadcast due to a lack of intensity.

DeMarcus Cousins gave a solid contribution in six minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Reggie Jackson also made 5 of 9 shots and has 14 points.

Booker has led the charge for Phoenix with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. No other Suns player has scored in double digits.

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Suns and Clippers scoring in different ways during first half

Clippers forward Paul George passes after driving to the basket against the Suns during Game 5.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

It’s worth noting how different the Clippers’ and Suns’ sources of offense have been so far in this game.

The Clippers lead in fastbreak points, 11-3. They also lead in points in the paint, 32-8.

So how is it a five-point game, 52-47 Clippers, with 3:52 to go at the half? The Suns are 7-of-13 shooting from 3-point range compared to 3 of 13 for the Clippers. Phoenix also has a slight edge at the free-throw line, making all six attempts.

Read into that however you want, but it’s worth seeing if those gaps persist.

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Suns cut lead to two

Suns guard Devin Booker is fouled while driving to the basket during Game 5.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

What was once a 14-point Clippers lead is now two.

Instead of turning Game 5 into a blowout, the Clippers are right back to Square 1 after a Suns rally. Cameron Johnson’s 3-pointer caused coach Tyronn Lue to call a timeout with his team leading 44-42 with 7:16 to go in the first half.

Johnson has made two field goals, both 3-pointers, with Cameron Payne providing five points off the Phoenix bench as well. Meanwhile, the Clippers haven’t scored in more than two minutes.

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Clippers lead by 10 at the end of first quarter

Clippers guard Terance Mann shoots a fadeaway over Suns center Deandre Ayton.
Clippers guard Terance Mann shoots a fadeaway over Suns center Deandre Ayton during Game 5.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

The Clippers lead 36-26 at the end of the first quarter.

Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris are both in double figures, with 12 and 13 points, respectively, including a layup at the buzzer for Jackson. The Clippers are shooting 15 of 23 from the field, including a 6-of-7 start for Morris.

Devin Booker is the only Phoenix scorer in double digits, with 11 points. The Suns are struggling from the field, shooting just above 40%, but they’re 5 of 11 from 3-point range, keeping them in the game.

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Suns cutting into Clippers lead

Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. looks to pass under pressure from Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and forward Mikal Bridges.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. looks to pass under pressure from Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and forward Mikal Bridges during Game 5.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

After the Clippers went up 20-7 early in the game, the Suns have fought right back.

They’ve cut the Clippers’ lead to four points — it’s 25-21 with 3:11 to go in the first.

Marcus Morris finally missed a shot for the Clippers, but still leads the game in scoring at 13 points. Paul George has been quiet, shooting just 1 of 3 so far.

Devin Booker leads Phoenix with nine points, both of his field goals coming on 3-pointers.

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Marcus Morris is red-hot early

Marcus Morris might just be saving the Clippers’ season.

Morris has made six consecutive shots to open the game, taking advantage of switches in transition. He’s already scored 13 points, a high for the series. And he just drew a charge on Deandre Ayton.

The Clippers lead 25-18 with 3:49 to go in the first quarter.

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Reggie Jackson adds exclamation point to Clippers run

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson dunks as he glides past Suns forward Mikal Bridges defends during Game 5.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Reggie Jackson has already put himself on the highlight reel tonight. The point guard threw one down in transition, punctuating what’s currently a 16-5 Clippers run to open the game.

The Clippers have made 7 of their first 9 shots from the field, holding the Suns to a 2-of-8 shooting to start.

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We’re underway in Phoenix

Devin Booker is back in his mask, 16,000 or so Suns fans are screaming their heads off and we’re underway in Game 5 with the Clippers trying to save their season.

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Starting lineups announced for Game 5

No surprises in the starting lineups for Game 5.

With Ivica Zubac out, Terance Mann will take his place, as reported earlier. Otherwise, things are unchanged for the Clippers.

Phoenix is, as expected, rolling with the same lineup that got the Suns this far.

Clippers starting lineup:

  • Reggie Jackson
  • Patrick Beverley
  • Terance Mann
  • Paul George
  • Marcus Morris

Suns starting lineup:

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

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Terance Mann to start in place of Ivica Zubac in Game 5

The Clippers will start Terance Mann with Ivica Zubac out for Game 5, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

Mann, who started Game 1 of the series before coach Tyronn Lue switched the lineup, adds some versatility to the Clippers’ starting five. Presumably, his presence means that forward Marcus Morris will be a de facto center, allowing the Clippers to switch ball-screens at all times, though they’ll be giving up size against the Suns 6-foor-11 center Deandre Ayton.

Ayton has averaged 20.3 points and 13.5 rebounds during the series.

Mann scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting with four rebounds in 33 minutes in Game 4.

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Clippers look to go downhill for a chance to topple the Suns

Paul George, with the ball, extends an arm. Chris Paul leans away.
Clippers forward Paul George drives past Suns guard Chris Paul during Game 5 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Things were going downhill fast Saturday for the Clippers — and just as they had hoped.

Of their first six baskets during the third quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, four were started by the Clippers’ drives into the paint from their half-court offense. A fifth came when Terance Mann sprinted from beyond the key under the rim, caught a pass heading out of bounds and finished a layup.

All that downhill movement suddenly had the Clippers’ comeback chances looking up, with much of it involving center Ivica Zubac.

Twice he slid into empty space created when his defender, Suns center Deandre Ayton, was forced to move away to stop drives by Paul George as he drove into the lane. George then flipped passes to Zubac, who finished with dunks, the last cutting the Clippers’ 15-point halftime deficit to eight.

“In that second half, we made a little adjustment with Zu and having him slip out a little early to get those guys downhill because then Ayton has to back up,” Lue said. “We are a totally different team when we attack the paint and get to the rim. We know that. So that’s got to be our emphasis.”

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Clunking Clippers rebuild curse brick by brick

Multiple players look at the basketball.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton looks to control a rebound during the first half of the Clippers’ 84-80 loss in Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Ten blown chances.

One blown season?

Ten times the Clippers took a shot that would have given them the lead, handed them the momentum, possibly won this game.

Ten times in the fourth quarter of another stirring comeback against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, the Clippers had a chance to ride the Staples Center roar to an equalizer in the Western Conference finals.

Ten times they crapped out.

Ten clanks, bricks and blocks. Ten missed layups, floaters and threes.

Ten examples of how, just when you least expect it, the Clippers Curse lives, and, goodness, how it howled on a night that felt like a joyride derailed.

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Clippers are left with a ‘different feeling’

Paul George holds both hands to his head as Chris Paul sits on the floor.
Clippers forward Paul George reacts after fouling Suns guard Chris Paul, left, in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 84-80 loss in Game 4.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

This time, the hole the Clippers are seeking to climb out of is deeper than any they have pulled themselves out of during their Western Conference playoff run that has now reached the edge of elimination.

One more shove, one more push, and the season is over for a Clippers team that has withstood more than its share of pushes and shoves this postseason.

Even the Clippers had to admit that being down 3-1 to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals felt different than their other 2-0 deficits this postseason.

An 84-80 loss to the Suns at Staples Center on Saturday night put the Clippers in this unpleasant place.

“Definitely a different feeling,” a disappointed Terance Mann said after scoring 12 points. “There’s no room for error. Just got to take it a game at a time now. Just got to try and go get Game 5 and be ready to try to force a Game 7.”

The Clippers know the odds are stacked against their resilient group.

The numbers tell the story of how teams leading 3-1 in a best-of-seven series in the conference finals boast a 52-4 record and how teams are 251-13 in any best-of-seven series.

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Season on the brink: 4 takeaways from Game 4 loss

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

No deficit has proved too great for the Clippers in these playoffs.

Not down 2-0, or 3-2, and not even when it comes to missing the injured Kawhi Leonard, one of their two All-NBA wings.

Coach Tyronn Lue said he isn’t fazed by the latest either, a 3-1 hole sealed in the Western Conference finals after an 84-80 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday at Staples Center.

“Just focus on Monday’s game, that’s it,” Lue said. “Not focus on winning three games. Got to take it one game at a time, and that’s got to be our mind-set. We beat Utah and won four games in a row. So it’s very doable.”

Four takeaways from Game 4:

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Ivica Zubac to miss Game 5 tonight because of knee injury

Clippers center Ivica Zubac tries to score inside against Phoenix’s Jae Crowder, left, and Deandre Ayton in Game 2.
Clippers center Ivica Zubac tries to score inside against Phoenix’s Jae Crowder, left, and Deandre Ayton in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX — With their rotation options already limited because of injuries and facing elimination Monday, the Clippers will be without center Ivica Zubac for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Zubac has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, the team announced, and is out for the potential elimination game for the Clippers, who trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

After seeing his starting role from the regular season shift during the postseason’s first two rounds after the Clippers successfully used a smaller lineup, the 7-foot Zubac has played his best basketball of the postseason against the Suns.

He has served as an effective counter against Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton. Zubac has played at least 32 minutes in each of the last three games while averaging 14 points and 13.7 rebounds in that span.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said that DeMarcus Cousins will get minutes at center in Zubac’s absence. After struggling in Game 1, picking up five fouls in 13 minutes, Cousins has been a nonfactor for much of the series. He didn’t play at all in Game 3 and played just four seconds in Game 4, his only box-score contribution being a 1-of-2 spot at the free throw line.

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