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Clippers eliminated as Chris Paul scores 41 in Suns’ Game 6 win

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Clippers forward Nicolas Batum gets past Suns forward Mikal Bridges for a basket.
Clippers forward Nicolas Batum gets past Suns forward Mikal Bridges for a basket during Game 6 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers can’t complete a comeback in the Western Conference finals as Chris Paul has 41 points in the Phoenix Suns’ 130-103 win in Game 6.

Follow our live coverage as the Clippers try to avoid elimination in the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Suns end Clippers season with 130-103 victory

Suns center Deandre Ayton scores over Clippers forward Paul George during Game 6.
Suns center Deandre Ayton scores over Clippers forward Paul George during Game 6 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Patrick Beverley walked up the tunnel and took off his jersey as Chris Paul took a technical free throw.

There were still more than five minutes left in the Clippers’ season, but no one was under any illusion that there would be a comeback Wednesday night at Staples Center. The Suns led by more than 20 points, and would go on to win 130-103, earning their first NBA Finals berth since 1993 and ending the Clippers’ season in the Western Conference finals.

“Extremely proud of this team,” Reggie Jackson told reporters. “Sucks that it’s cut short, short of our ultimate goal this year to win a championship. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Video highlights from the Phoenix Suns’ 130-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on June 30, 2021, at Staples Center.

That Paul did so in the building where he experienced heartbreak as a member of the team he just beat will undoubtedly make it all the better for him. Paul finished with 41 points, leading the Suns with a personal 8-0 run in the second half once the Clippers cut a commanding lead down to seven and only getting better from there.

Paul’s career, which has long lacked the luster of an NBA Finals berth, now has a signature playoff moment and he’ll have the chance to win his first title against a diminished Eastern Conference opponent.

“To do it here in L.A. with the Clippers, this is my family too,” Paul said on the ESPN broadcast. “I gave six hard years to the Clippers. We fought hard. … To do it here for the team I got the utmost respect for, I’ll always be a Clipper. I love these fans.”

Devin Booker followed Paul with 22 points on 10-of-26 shooting for the Suns. Jae Crowder contributed 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. As a team, the Suns shot 56.4% from the field and more than 50% from 3-point range, making 17 of 31.

For the Clippers, who went through the series without Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris led with 26 points. Paul George followed him with 21 on 6-of-15 shooting — a performance that will yet again open him to questions about his ability to perform on a big stage.

The Clippers shot 41.8% from the field and struggled from range, shooting 12 of 39 on 3-pointer. Ultimately, though, it was their defense that did them in.

Though they made the conference finals for the first time in franchise history, the Clippers ultimately ended this season in a familiar fashion — walking off their home court as an opponent celebrated.

“We gonna enjoy tonight,” Paul said. “We’re gonna enjoy it.”

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Patrick Beverley ejected as Chris Paul continues lighting up the Clippers

Chris Paul is putting on a masterclass right now.

In his old stomping ground, the 36-year-old guard is up to 37 points and seems to be hitting every shot he takes. In just the last few minutes, he’s completed a four-point play, made a pull-up 3-pointer and caused Patrick Beverley’s anger to boil over.

Beverley was ejected after he shoved Paul with both hands from behind heading into a timeout.

It’s hard to believe that won’t be all she wrote for the Clippers. Phoenix leads 119-92 with 5:37 to go.

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Chris Paul is red-hot, Suns lead by 20 early in fourth quarter

Suns guard Chris Paul drives against Clippers forward Paul George.
Suns guard Chris Paul drives against Clippers forward Paul George during Game 6.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

It looks like Chris Paul might lead his team to the NBA Finals with a win tonight at Staples Center.

He’s scored 14 of the Suns’ last 16 points, they lead by 20 and don’t seem to have an answer. Paul is up to 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting for the night, with six assists. He’s getting easy looks in the pick-and-roll sets, driving the basket, really doing whatever he wants. And the Clippers are running out of time to put together a comeback.

The Suns lead 105-85 with 9:39 to go.

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Suns lead back up to 15 at end of third quarter behind Chris Paul

After the Clippers cut the deficit to seven, the Suns answered with a run of their own. Or more accurately, Chris Paul answered with a run of his own.

Paul finished the third quarter off on a personal 8-0 run, helping Phoenix to a 97-82 lead. He’s up to 22 points on the night along with six assists. The Clippers, despite shooting 13 more free throws than Phoenix in the quarter and seeming to get some momentum midway through, couldn’t make up any ground.

Now, they’re 12 minutes away from the end of their season.

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DeMarcus Cousins gets a technical foul

DeMarcus Cousins was assessed a technical foul for contact with Chris Paul after a Suns basket. Paul appeared to sell the call, with Steve Javie calling it an acting job on ESPN, but the technical was called nonetheless.

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Devin Booker takes a shot to the nose

Clippers forward Paul George commits an offensive foul against Suns guard Devin Booker.
Clippers forward Paul George commits an offensive foul against Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 6.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After breaking his nose earlier in the series, Devin Booker just took a painful elbow to the nose from Paul George, who was trying to drive to the basket. Booker has not been wearing a mask after struggling with some discomfort with it on.

It looks like he’ll stay in the game, but that had to have been painful. We’ll see if it affects him.

George was assessed an offensive foul as the Suns have the ball and a12-point lead late in the third quarter.

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Clippers cut Suns’ lead to seven points

Just when we started talking about a blowout, the Clippers are right back in this one.

They’re on a 10-0 run and Nicolas Batum just hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven. It’s 89-82 with 1:42 to go in the third quarter.

Only a few minutes ago, it looked like the Suns might pull away, but Batum has helped the Clippers’ 3-point shooting come alive, and now it’s a game again.

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Suns pulling away, lead up to 17

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley scores despite the challenge by Suns forward Torrey Craig.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley scores despite the challenge by Suns forward Torrey Craig during Game 6.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

This game is teetering on the verge of a blowout.

The Suns lead 89-72 with 4:01 to go in the third quarter and the Clippers look to be without an answer and without energy. Unless something changes very fast, this might get out of hand.

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Suns’ lead balloons to 13 in third quarter

The second half is off to a slow start, but it’s not a good one for the Clippers.

The deficit is up to 13, as the Clippers trail 80-67 with 6:58 to go in the third after letting Devin Booker slice through their defense to put up a highlight-reel dunk.

That play got Booker up to 16 points on the night. Jae Crowder is also hot for the Suns, shooting 5-of-7 from 3-point range and scoring 19 points.

For the Clippers, Paul George is on the brink of a performance that will revive the conversation about his playoff struggles — 11 points and seven rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting. In other words, he hasn’t been much of a factor. The Clippers will need him to change that down the stretch, or their season could be over.

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Suns hold 66-57 halftime lead

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley tries to block a shot by Suns guard Chris Paul.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley tries to block a shot by Suns guard Chris Paul during Game 6.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers have 24 minutes to make up a nine-point deficit and force a Game 7.

Phoenix leads the Clippers 66-57 at halftime of Game 6 behind a balanced scoring effort that has seen four of their starters reach double figures. Jae Crowder leads the Suns with 16 points and their big three — Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton — have 14, 10 and 10, respectively.

The Suns are shooting 10 of 17 from 3-point range to go with 55.3% from the field. The Clippers have struggled to deal with Ayton, who also has seven rebounds, including three offensive rebounds.

Marcus Morris leads the scoring for the Clippers with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson have 11 apiece. Paul George didn’t do much in the first half, shooting just 3 of 8 from the field with six points.

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Quiet start for Paul George as Clippers still trail

Clippers forward Paul George tries to drive against Suns forward Jae Crowder.
Clippers forward Paul George tries to drive against Suns forward Jae Crowder during Game 6.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

After an incredible Game 5, Paul George has just six points on 3-of-7 shooting so far in Game 6.

Torrey Craig has done an impressive job guarding George off the bench, and the superstar is a minus-10 in the game, the worst of any Clipper.

With 2:51 to go in the second quarter, the Suns lead 58-52.

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Patrick Beverley crosses up Chris Paul, finishes at the rim

OK then, Patrick Beverley.

The Clippers guard just crossed up Chris Paul, drove past him and finished. Then he turned and asked the crowd to get even louder as the Suns’ lead has been trimmed to single digits midway through the second quarter.

Watch Beverley’s move below:

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Suns lead up to double digits

The Clippers need to figure out some answers on defense. Fast.

The Suns lead 45-35 with 9:14 to go in the first half. They’ve made 7 of 9 3-pointers and are currently shooting 19 of 28 from the field. Their current offensive rating is 152.8, and that’s without having shot a free throw so far.

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Clippers down by four at the end of first quarter

Clippers forward Paul George pulls up for a shot over Suns center Deandre Ayton.
Clippers forward Paul George pulls up for a shot over Suns center Deandre Ayton during Game 6.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

At the end of one quarter, the Suns lead 33-29. More concerning for the Clippers: Phoenix is shooting like gangbusters.

The Suns are 14 of 22 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have combined for 25 points, all three looking ready for the moment.

On an encouraging note for the Clippers: DeMarcus Cousins has two 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater. They’re also still very much in the game despite shooting at a much worse level, and Phoenix’s numbers are likely to level out over the course of the game.

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Deandre Ayton scoring on small Clippers lineup

Suns center Deandre Ayton scores inside against the Clippers.
Suns center Deandre Ayton scores inside against the Clippers during Game 6.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Not yet a full quarter into Game 6, Deandre Ayton has nearly equaled his scoring total from Game 5.

Ayton already has eight points on 4-of-5 shooting. The Suns are making a point of getting the ball to him off switches, taking advantage of a smaller Clippers lineup with no Ivica Zubac.

Phoenix leads 23-20 with 2:23 to go in the first.

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Suns shooting well early

The Suns have a 15-9 lead with 6:44 to go in the first quarter thanks to 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including making all three 3-pointers.

Chris Paul has led the charge, hitting two 3-pointers and notching two assists.

For the Clippers, it’s Patrick Beverley doing the scoring. He has seven of the Clippers’ first nine points and has yet to miss a shot.

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Suns strike first in Game 6

In a win for TV executives who list the start time early, we’re off and running at 6:16 p.m. Chris Paul starts it off with a lob to Mikal Bridges.

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Clippers keep starting lineup same as in Game 5

With Ivica Zubac out again, the Clippers are keeping their starting five from Game 5 intact, going small with Marcus Morris at center.

The group was effective against Suns center Deandre Ayton two nights ago. The Clippers held Ayton to just 10 points and 11 rebounds despite a size disadvantage.

Clippers starting lineup:

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

Suns starting lineup:

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

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What the Clippers must do to force Game 7 against the Suns

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue speaks with his players during a timeout in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Monday.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

We don’t need a pithy introduction to explain why this is the biggest game the Los Angeles Clippers have ever played. Either they win and give themselves a 48-minute chance to advance to the NBA Finals or they lose and the season ends.

While the goodwill from their short-handed effort over the past two weeks has washed off some of the stink of “Clippers curse,” a loss should have people asking “what if” the Clippers could’ve made the most out of some golden chances in the Western Conference Finals.

But a win would at least put that kind of a reckoning on pause. Here are seven things the Clippers need to do if they want to extend their season:

1. Be ready for the pressure

When a team is up 3-1 and loses Game 5, especially the way the Suns lost Game 5, you have to expect they’ll play with a different level of focus and intensity in Game 6. Anyone who was around the Clippers when they blew their 3-1 lead to the Rockets recognized that a stinker in Game 5 was the beginning of the end.

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Suns’ Cameron Johnson to miss Game 6

Clippers forward Paul George takes a charge against Suns forward Cameron Johnson.
Clippers forward Paul George takes a charge against Suns forward Cameron Johnson during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Cameron Johnson is out for Game 6 with a non-COVID illness, the Suns announced.

This is a notable blow for the Suns as they try to end the series. Johnson is averaging 20.5 minutes per game off the bench in the postseason, averaging 8.1 points, 3.1 assists and 45.1% 3-point shooting. In Game 5, Johnson scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting with three steals.

His absence could mean more minutes for Torrey Craig or an extended Abdel Nader appearance. Craig has played about 10 minutes a game so far this series, whereas Nader got off the bench for the first time in Game 4. Neither are the same kind of 3-point shooting threat as Johnson.

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Ivica Zubac out again for Game 6

Clippers center Ivica Zubac blocks a shot by Suns guard Cameron Payne.
Clippers center Ivica Zubac blocks a shot by Suns guard Cameron Payne during Game 3 of their playoff series.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers will again be without Ivica Zubac in Game 6, according to coach Tyronn Lue.

Zubac is out with an sprained right knee ligament, missing his second straight game. The Clippers went small in Game 5, starting Terance Mann in his place with good results. There’s no reason to think they won’t do the same thing tonight.

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With Playoff P back, Paul George is proving he shouldn’t be a punchline

Clippers forward Paul George tries to split the defense of Phoenix's Cameron Johnson and Abdel Nader during Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Paul George never pretended he hadn’t seen or heard the criticism that followed his first year with the Clippers, but it rarely had moved from the world of social media and been said straight to his face as it was the night of Jan. 3 in Phoenix.

What started with the Clippers forward’s frustration over being fallen on during the fourth quarter quickly led to an argument with Suns guard Devin Booker. Reggie Jackson, one of George’s best friends, wrapped his arms around his teammate to separate them, but it didn’t stop George and Booker from trading words.

The exchange, according to George, had little to do with the play and more with the Clippers’ breakdown in the NBA bubble four months earlier, when George became the symbol of the franchise’s swift transformation from championship contender back to punchline.

“For whatever reason, there’s a lot of chirping and people just living in the past,” George said after the Clippers’ win that night. “Last year was last year. I’m in a new situation, I am in a different mind-set. Any of that hate stuff, you got to ask them. I don’t know where that’s coming from.”

Six months later, on Monday night inside the same arena, it still was coming at him: boos and cries of “Playoff P” — the self-bestowed nickname that has haunted his social media mentions for more than two years — during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. And just as George delivered the assist on the game-winning three-pointer to beat the Suns in January, he didn’t wilt in the heat of the moment.

With a playoff career-high 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, he helped trim Phoenix’s series lead to 3-2 entering Game 6 on Wednesday and joined LeBron James, Patrick Ewing and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to produce at least 40 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 70% or better and facing elimination, according to Elias Sports.

George appeared exhausted afterward. With Kawhi Leonard missing seven consecutive games, George has played 735 playoff minutes — 130 more than anyone else, and 150 more than his closest teammate.

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Reggie Jackson keeps it loose before game, then cuts loose in win

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, right, blocks a shot by Suns guard Devin Booker during Game 5 on Monday night in Phoenix.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns fans were yelling, cursing and giving the middle finger to the cool and calm Reggie Jackson as he wiped his face. Jackson smiled at the unruly fans and offered them a thumbs-up and a shake of his head during the break in action with 4 minutes 17 seconds left in a game in which the Clippers had taken total control at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Jackson had been the perfect running mate for his best friend on the team, Paul George, the 6-foot-2 guard complementing the Clippers’ star forward in so many ways in the decisive fourth quarter of the Clippers’ Game 5 victory in the Western Conference finals Monday night.

Before Jackson had come up big with eight much-needed points in the fourth, and before he finished another stellar game with 23 points, he had been talking trash during the shoot-around.

It was his way of letting teammates know he was going to be ready for the challenge ahead of them that night. It was his way of trying to bring some levity to his teammates when they got more bad news that another teammate, center Ivica Zubac, was out because of a sprained right knee ligament.

When Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was asked about Jackson after the win, he chuckled and smiled before answering.

“Reggie, man, he’s been phenomenal for us all season long,” Lue said. “He loves these moments. He was talking trash all day today — at shoot-around, before the game, after the game. Just keeping the guys’ spirits up.”

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Playoff P helps Clippers stay alive in playoffs with 41 points in Game 5 win

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (21) celebrates with forward Paul George as he’s about to shoot free throws during Game 5.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (21) celebrates with forward Paul George as he’s about to shoot free throws after a flagrant foul during Game 5 on Monday night in Phoenix.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX — For five weeks, there had been one missing piece to this city’s celebration as its basketball team pushed deeper through its first postseason in a decade.

When the Phoenix Suns closed out the Lakers to win their first-round series, it happened in Los Angeles. Then they swept the Nuggets in Denver. It was why when the Suns entered Game 5 of this Western Conference finals Monday leading this best-of-seven series 3-1, fans twirled orange towels inside Phoenix Suns Arena and yelled until players leaned only inches from one another, straining to hear.

This wasn’t just a chance to witness the Suns’ first Finals berth since 1993. This also was about celebrating a funeral — waiting for the postseason’s most resilient team to finally be killed off.

At halftime, on a stage in the arena’s corner, Alice Cooper gripped a microphone with his black batting gloves and altered the lyrics of one of his trademark songs in hopes of conjuring last rites:

So long Nuggets, goodbye Lakers, bye-bye Clippers, we ain’t finished.

Instead, it was music to the Clippers’ ears, the last three words the soundtrack to a playoff run that isn’t over yet, despite long odds and a shortage of available bodies. Facing their third elimination game of this postseason they are, again, not finished yet.

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Clippers have will to survive, find way to beat Suns in Game 5

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, left, celebrates with teammates Terance Mann, center, and Daniel Oturu during a Game 5 win.
Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, left, celebrates with teammates Terance Mann, center, and Daniel Oturu during a Game 5 win on Monday night in Phoenix.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Steve Ballmer flailing his fists. DeMarcus Cousins flexing his biceps. Reggie Jackson pumping his arms. Paul George barreling, banging, attacking.

A franchise that was once the epitome of failure was again the portrait of fight. A team that should be finished was again just getting started.

The Clippers spent much of their first three decades in Los Angeles being invisible, but now you can’t get rid of them, and will this wild, wondrous run ever end?

That is the question the Phoenix Suns are surely asking themselves today after the Clippers pushed them, dizzied them, and eventually flattened them in a 116-102 victory Monday in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Phoenix Suns Arena.

The Clippers were trailing three games to one and facing elimination in a hostile arena filled with chants of, “Beat L.A.” They didn’t blink, and now the only thing that’s been eliminated is doubt that they can pull this off.

The Clippers were tasked with surviving an on-the-brink game without not only their injured superstar Kawhi Leonard, but also without newly-injured big man Ivica Zubac. They made every adjustment, made every big play, and now you wonder if there’s any setback that can stop them.

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