Notebook: Clips Lockdown Listless Suns, Take Game 3

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Phoenix Suns eight-game playoff win streak came to an ugly, abrupt end as they fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 106-92 Thursday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. The Suns still lead the series 2-1 with a now all-important Game 4 scheduled for Saturday night in LA.

“They played with a great deal of desperation, they played hard in every segment of the game,” Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said of Los Angeles. “You have to tip your hat to them. They brought it for all 48 minutes and we didn’t.”

Here are a few storylines as the Clippers muscled their way right back into the WCF.


Have the Clippers found the secret sauce to stopping Devin Booker after his 40-point Game 1 explosion?

They’re certainly on the right track.

It seems to start and end with Patrick Beverley who harrassed Booker and, at times, Chris Paul into a combined 10-40 shooting night as the series shifted back to Southern California.

The Clips are now right back in the series after Beverely consistently crowded Booker, often picking him up full court which disrupted Phoenix’s offensive flow and often made them force attempts late in the shot clock.

The Booker-Beverely duels are nothing new.

“He’s ultra agressive,” Booker said of Beverley. “He’s denying, limiting touches. We have to look at the film and see what’s open and see what we can get.”

Paul’s series debut included a double-double (15 points, 12 assists) but he admitted his performance was unacceptable with what’s at stake this deep in the post-season.

“I got to be better,” he explained without hesitation. “I shot terrible. I got to pick up the pace. I’ll be ready in Game 4.”

Payne-ful Night

One of the stars of Game 2 didn’t see much of Game 3.

While Paul showed early rust after not playing a game in 10 days, Cameron Payne’s loss was evident – particularly in the third quarter when Phoenix had no answer for LA’s offensive explosion. The second-seed was outscored 34-21 and didn’t show any signs of offensive rhythm or urgency during the Clippers’ huge run which swung momentum. 

“They came out in the third quarter and just brought it,” Williams said of the Clips after the game.

Not only did the Suns miss Payne’s scoring, they missed his play-making (nine assists, zero turnovers in 37 clutch minutes in Game 2 spelling Paul).

“He tried to come back [in the second half] and it just didn’t allow him to come back on the floor,” Williams said of Payne’s setback.

Payne’s health will be a major storyline to follow considering ankle injuries can be tricky and Phoenix’s back court was completely outplayed in the loss.

“He’s been that spark for us and he’s made a lot happen for us when he’s been out there,” Booker said of his backcourt mate.

Mann Child

Life is all about opportunity and when Kawhi Leonard went down with what the team is calling an MCL sprain, second-year guard Terance Mann has picked up the offensive baton and run with it, pouring in a career-high 39 points in a series-clinching Game 6 win over the top-seeded Jazz in Los Angeles.

The Clips took the fight to Phoenix playing with far more intensity and Mann was in the middle of it providing effort plays at both ends of the floor.

The former Florida State star scored 12 points, making an efficient six of eight attempts and grabbed five rebounds. He was relentless, making tough plays like the one above which helped the Clippers turn a two-point halftime deficit into a fourth quarter laugher.

“Mann got aggressive,” Paul said after the game. “He’s been like that all playoffs long.”

LA’s starting backcourt trio of Reggie Jackson, Paul George and Mann combined for 62 points, 21 rebounds and 13 assists.

Up front, starting center Ivica Zubac was outstanding scoring 15 points, while grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds (six offensive).

The DA Way

One thing which didn’t change for the Suns Thursday was the hot play of Deandre Ayton who continued his quick starts offensively in the playoffs.

Ayton’s skill and touch again presented the Clippers with problems as he helped Phoenix to stay afloat during a rocky first quarter and eventually take a small halftime lead.

The third-year center and former first overall pick scored a team-high 18 points on 9-13 shooting, while grabbing a nine rebounds and blocking two shots.

He seemed to get phased out a bit in the second half as LA’s magin ballooned and the game got away from the Suns.

“We as a team can do a better job of getting the ball to ‘DA’,” Williams noted. “That’s on me.”

Let the adjustments for Saturday begin.

Expect another chess match between Williams and Clippers head coach Ty Lue.