NBA: Strong defensive effort guides Clippers past Suns in Game 3

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jun 25 2021 12:11 PM | Updated as of Jun 25 2021 12:57 PM

NBA: Strong defensive effort guides Clippers past Suns in Game 3 1
LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) tries to score past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and forward Jae Crowder (99) during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals for the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Paul George scored a game-high 27 points, Patrick Beverley harassed Devin Booker into a second consecutive subpar performance and the Los Angeles Clippers worked their Game 3 magic once again Thursday night in a 106-92 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals.

The Clippers got back into the best-of-seven series with a win after two opening defeats in Phoenix. Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday night, also in Los Angeles.

Reggie Jackson chipped in with 23 points for Los Angeles while Ivica Zubac outplayed Deandre Ayton with a 15-point, 16-rebound performance.

Booker shot just 5-for-21 en route to 15 points for second-seeded Phoenix. Chris Paul, making his series debut after being released from COVID protocol, struggled to 15 of his own on 5-for-19 shooting. They combined to sink just 3 of 14 3-point attempts.

Paul, who managed a game-high 12 assists in 39 minutes, hadn't played since Game 4 of the Western semifinals against the Denver Nuggets on June 13.

The Clippers, who became the first team in NBA history to erase 2-0 deficits in each of their first two playoff series, trailed this time 48-46 at halftime before dominating the second half.

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Down 55-50 in the second minute of the third period, the Clippers got three consecutive hoops from Terance Mann to grab a lead they never relinquished en route to finishing the quarter on a 30-14 run.

George's buzzer-beating, half-court shot capped the surge that produced an 80-69 lead, after which the Suns got no closer than six.

George complemented his 27 points with 15 rebounds and a team-high eight assists. He helped the Clippers bounce back from a last-second defeat in Game 2 of the series with a defensive effort that limited the Suns to 38.9 percent shooting from the floor.

Mann finished with 12 points in the win.

Ayton had 18 points and a team-high nine rebounds for Phoenix, which lost key reserve Cameron Payne to an ankle injury in the second period. Mikal Bridges added 13 points and Cameron Johnson 12 in the defeat.

With Paul returning from his long absence, the Suns seemed comfortable slowing the pace and getting into a defensive struggle in the first half. However, Paul and Booker each shot just 2-for-10 in the half.

The Clippers again were without star forward Kawhi Leonard, who has a sprained right knee. He has missed the team's past five games.

--Field Level Media