On their home floor, the Phoenix Suns won three games to one and had a chance of reaching the NBA Finals. Can you think of other occasions when that has happened? The Suns have never held a lead of 3-1 in conference finals. They've never been worse than 2-2 in nine previous attempts.
It was time to set the stage. Chris Paul had the best chance of reaching the championship round, standing in front of Phoenix's fans. Devin Booker, the man who led the Suns out of poverty in five seasons, can now lead them to places they have never been before.
When it was revealed that the Los Angeles Clippers would not have starting center Ivica Zurbac because of a right MCL strain, it seemed like the perfect time for Deandre Ayton, Suns starting center, to continue his incredible postseason that has overshadowed any doubts once placed upon his career.
Instead, the storyline collapsed. The city's pulse slowed to a halt. The city's pulse was flatlined after Monday night's 116-102 loss at home to the Clippers.
Phoenix leads the series by three games to one and has many chances to reach the first NBA Finals since 1992-1993. But the line is now much closer.
Monty Williams, Suns coach, said that "the desperation must be there -- this is the deal." "Just because you're leading the series doesn't mean that you're going get it, they won't give it to anyone.
"We must understand that. I believe we do."
It felt as if the Suns had begun their celebration from the jump. Their players started out flat, and were flattened by a Clipper run of 20-5 in five minutes. This included eight points from former Sun Marcus Morris (Los Angeles forward).
Phoenix managed to reduce its deficit to 36-26 at quarter's end and 59-52 by halftime. But it felt more like frustration than the joy that once elicited crowds at Phoenix Suns Arena.
The Suns scored 24 points at halftime on 10-of-24 shooting outside of Paul and Booker. Ayton's best matchup was Morris (6-foot-9), or a worn down version of center Demarcus Coursins at the back end a zone defense. He scored six points on three of five shooting and had four rebounds.
Williams was wrong to expect the Suns team.
He said, "It's unacceptable the way that we started the game." "A huge hole for us. Pretty obvious that we cannot play with a'show up' mentality. They played with desperation, even though we showed up in the first quarter. It was simple and straightforward."
The Suns were woken up by a shot to their mouth after the Suns made a run. The Suns started the third quarter with a 10-2 run and took their first lead at 62-60 with 8:27 remaining in the period. They would not be able to overcome this early resistance.
Los Angeles responded by running an 18-5 race over the 4:06 mark, including 13 points from Paul George, starting forward. George scored 20 of his 41-point game-high in the third quarter, shooting 15-of-20. The Suns thought George was more defensively aggressive than usual and allowed them to score only 20 points.
Williams stated that Williams didn't show enough bodies to them. Williams said, "And when they have such a small roster, they're going try to spread you out. It comes down to being able guard the ball and forcing them into tough shots.
The Suns trailed 91-78 at halftime of the third quarter. Phoenix used a smaller lineup, with Torrey Craig at the five and Dario Saric at the five and Booker, Paul at the five and Cameron Johnson at the backup forward. The Suns went on a 16-7 run in the fourth quarter, including a Johnson 3-point play that earned George a foul.
Craig missed the free throw with a chance to reduce the Suns' deficit down to one possession. His team also failed to make the comeback attempt. Los Angeles responded with a 10-2 run that included eight points from Reggie Jackson, starting point guard. This was followed by a one-handed dunk that sucked the energy out Phoenix.
The Suns only scored six points in the last four:47 and all hopes of a special night were crushed.
Booker stated, "It's all on us." "They came out and punched us in our faces to get the game started. It was evident that they did this at times tonight, at certain times. But they won't let up. We have to stay in the loop from the beginning.
Booker, who shot a total of 18-of-59 (30.5%) in his three previous games, led the Suns with 31 point scoring on 9-of-22 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 3-point range. His triples were not made in the second period.
Paul followed Booker with a record 22 points on 8 of 19 shooting, eight assists, and three rebounds. Three games later, Paul still hasn't appeared to be the same person he was before the safety and health protocols. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts, and he also failed to find Ayton in time to take advantage the Clippers' smaller roster.
Paul stated, "It was my responsibility to get it to him (Ayton), and to get our spacing correct knowing that they are undersized." "They had three people trying to box him out or hold him down. We just need to be more aggressive and pick our spots better.
Ayton had a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds from 5-of-9 shooting. However, he was not as dominant as before. After recording nine offensive rebounds in Game 4, Ayton only recorded one rebound in the fourth and first quarters.
Phoenix won the rebounding contest by one (41-40), and Los Angeles was victorious in the paint, 58-32. The Suns were leading in points in paint at 198 to 140 through the first four games.
Booker stated, "You can blame everybody, a lot straight-line drives but no help at all." "So this is a 5-man defense. It's been like that the entire season. We have to do better."
For the fourth consecutive game, Phoenix managed to score below 35 percent at the 3-point line. After starting the game 5 of 8 (62.5%), Phoenix made 9-of-26 attempts (34.6%).
Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges, starting forwards, continued to struggle shooting a combined 1-of-6 (16.7%) from 3-point range (Game 5), and a combined 13-of-44 (29.5%) in this series.
Johnson played well in the conference finals. He scored 14 points, four boards, and three steals over 23 minutes. Johnson shot 5-of-6 from behind the arc, 3-of-3 from the outside and now shoots 70% in this series. He also has a 52.9 percent mark shooting from 3-point range.
On Wednesday, the Suns will have another chance to advance to the NBA Finals. The Clippers' momentum will make it more challenging and there is the possibility of forcing a Game 7.
Phoenix has not been frightened by precarious situations throughout the season. This will be its greatest test. It is confident that it will rise to the occasion.
Booker stated, "We're going be ready." We'll look at the film and make any necessary adjustments, while still having fun. This is a unique process and it's a great journey.
"I said it after losing the first game (Game 3). We didn't want any more games, but getting back in the film session, getting together with the team, and discussing everything, that was part of it. Once you have fun and enjoy that, it's a good thing for your team. We've responded well throughout the season.Date Of Update: 29 June 2021, 17:52