Deandre Ayton lifts Suns to Game 2 win over Clippers with clutch last second tip-in

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Deandre Ayton came through at the perfect time on Tuesday night to lift the Phoenix Suns to a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Ayton, with just 0.9 seconds left on the clock, expertly tipped in an inbounds pass from Jae Crowder to lift the Suns to a 104-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Suns coach Monty Williams said after the game that the team had never walked through that final play before, but that they had tried to run it in the previous series with the Denver Nuggets.

“We were trying to get a lob for DA, and he [Crowder had] the awareness to just put it up there where DA could only get it,” Williams said. “[Devin Booker] set a great screen, Jae makes a great pass. It’s just one of those things that happens that you’re just grateful for … It was unreal execution at the end."

Though Ayton deserves all of the credit, he isn't taking it.

“That’s definitely Jae’s game winner, making a great pass over a 7-footer,” Ayton said. “Coach drew up a great play where I was in the best position. My teammates trust me, and my coaches trust me. Book set a great screen that freed me up into the lane to at least gather my feet and go for the ball, and the rest is just off my athleticism and my talent. Jae set it up right there perfectly.”

Ayton saves Clippers after tight Game 2 battle

After a close battle throughout the first half, the Suns took the largest lead of the game in the third quarter — a brief nine-point advantage they secured after holding the Clippers scoreless for more than three minutes. That lead was short-lived, though, as the Clippers cut it to just four points by the end of the period.

Devin Booker and Clippers guard Patrick Beverley both had to leave the game briefly near the end of the third quarter after they headbutted on the wing. The collision sent Booker to the ground bleeding from his nose.

Both Booker and Beverley — who was just called for a common foul on the play — returned to the court for the fourth quarter, though Booker needed stitches in the locker room. He will likely receive an X-ray on his nose on Wednesday and may need a protective mask even though he said he was told that it likely isn't broken.

"He was probably playing with a great deal of pain," Williams said after the game, via USA Today's Mark Medina. "I thought he broke his nose when I saw it. I was worried about the blood continuing to flow."

With just more than a minute left while the Suns held a three point lead, Booker was called for an offensive foul after Beverley was hit on a drive and went down — which prompted a lengthy review.

Booker got called for a foul on the other end, which sent the Clippers to the free throw line and allowed them to cut the game to just a single point. Payne then drove to the rim for a layup but was stopped in his tracks by Ivica Zubac, prompting a Paul George layup to give the Clippers their first lead of the period with just 30 seconds left.

Booker, though, hit a mid-range jumper from the top of the key off an inbounds play to retake the lead for the Suns — which Paul George matched almost perfectly on the other end.

The Clippers stopped Booker and reclaimed the ball after a review determined that Booker had sent the ball out of bounds, and eventually sent George to the free throw line. He missed both shots, though, which set the Suns up with one last chance.

That’s when the Suns set up Ayton perfectly above the rim to complete the play over Ivica Zubac to give them the one-point win.

George led the Clippers with 26 points, six assists and six rebounds. Reggie Jackson added 19 points, and Zubac finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Cameron Payne filled in for Chris Paul without missing a beat on Tuesday night, and dropped a career-high 29 points and nine assists while the future Hall of Famer is still sidelined due to COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Paul did FaceTime into the locker room after the win to celebrate.

Ayton finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds while missing just three shots from the field, and Booker finished with 20 points. The Suns have now won nine straight games in the postseason.

Game 3 of the series is set for Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton
The Suns escaped with a win in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals thanks to a perfect tip-in from Deandre Ayton. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

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