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The Suns Took A 3-1 Series Lead Over The Clippers In The Lowest Scoring Game Of The NBA Season

After the Clippers ran away with a big win in Game 3 to get into this series, the Suns came out eager to respond in Game 4, jumping out to a big first half lead, holding a 14-point advantage at halftime as the Clippers could not buy a bucket from three-point range, at one point going on a six-minute scoring drought in the second quarter.

Leading the way for Phoenix was Deandre Ayton, who was spectacular on both ends for a Suns team that desperately needed it with both of their backcourt stars looking out of sorts. Chris Paul continued to struggle with his shooting touch after more than a week off after testing positive for COVID-19, and Devin Booker’s dalliance with wearing a mask lasted barely into the third quarter of Game 4 before he took it off and chucked it away after missing a layup. After combining for a 10-of-40 night in Game 3, that duo wasn’t significantly better in Game 4, going 14-of-44 — although Booker started better and was able to get to the free throw line more effectively to get to 25 points.

As such, Ayton found himself needing to carry the load and he did so in a big way, scoring 19 points on 14 shots and hauling in an outrageous 22 rebounds in a game where neither team could shoot the ball.

In the third quarter, the Clippers turned their shooting woes around to claw their way back into the game, cutting the lead to one late in the period and trailing by just three going to the fourth. Reggie Jackson, as he has been all playoffs, was huge for the Clippers, having another 20-point game to provide L.A. with some needed scoring alongside Paul George.

George, like pretty much everyone in Game 4, struggled from the field at just 5-of-20, but had a solid third to help reel in the Suns, who went cold themselves. The Clippers star finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds — as seemingly everyone had a lot of boards in this one thanks to the numerous missed shots.

Ivica Zubac was also terrific for the Clippers with 13 points and 14 rebounds of his own, matching Ayton’s minutes almost throughout and giving the Clippers a needed presence inside as Ayton was feasting. The third quarter also produced the best moment of the game, which was Mike Breen’s call of “Kawhi Leonard is going CRAZY!” as the camera cut to a deadpan Kawhi in his luxury box during L.A.’s big third quarter run.

In the fourth quarter, the Clippers cut the Suns lead back down to one at 71-70 and then the score remained there for four minutes of game time as each team just completely shut down on offense (and, to give them credit, played some excellent team defense).

The drought was finally broken on an Ayton lob finish to mercifully put some more points on the board, which seemed to take the lid off the basket for both teams briefly.

However, things remained rough after that, with neither team able to mount any kind of run to take full control. The Suns were able to stay ahead, playing some incredible defense, but saw Devin Booker foul out in the closing minutes after a blocking call on Patrick Beverley was overturned following a review as their offense continued to stall out.

With a three-point lead, Mikal Bridges fouled Paul George with 13 seconds to play, with George hitting both free throws cutting the lead to one and Phoenix without one of their best free throw shooters. After the initial inbounds play got very dicey, with Cam Payne getting stripped out of bounds and there being no review on a play eerily similar to the one in Game 2 that got reviewed and overturned off of Devin Booker, Chris Paul got the ball and calmly knocked down both of his free throws to push the lead back to three.

The Suns chose to foul Paul George up three on the ensuing inbounds play and in a painfully similar spot to Game 2, he missed the front end. On the second, with George intentionally missing to give the Clippers a chance at a rebound and a tying three, DeMarcus Cousins was fouled by Dario Saric fighting for position and had a chance himself to make two to cut it to one with 5.8 seconds left. He made the first, but airballed the second. Chris Paul got the ball on the next inbound and got a foul call to go to the stripe — on a play the Clippers felt was a travel before a foul — and could only split his free throws, once again leaving the door open for L.A.

They again fouled Paul George immediately as he grabbed the rebound on the free throw miss, and this time, George hit the first and then purposefully missed the second again. The ball got batted around and eventually tipped out to Chris Paul by Dario Saric, with George fouling CP3 for one final time, icing the game for good finally in what became a somewhat hideous 84-80 win to put Phoenix up 3-1.

The shooting numbers for both teams were comical in Game 4. The Suns, who again won the game, were 4-of-20 from three (20 percent) and 31-of-86 from the field (36 percent). The Clippers were somehow worse in both areas at 5-of-31 from three (16.2 percent) and 27-of-83 from the field (32.5 percent). The difference though was really at the free throw line, where the Suns were 18-of-21 compared to 21-of-32 from L.A. — even considering some purposeful misses.

The fourth quarter was the worst of all of it, with the two teams combining for a 7-of-38 shooting quarter, with the shot charts just being a lot of blood.

It was not a pretty game, nor a particularly good one from most anyone outside of Deandre Ayton, for the Suns, but they got the win and that’s what matters. They will now head back to Phoenix looking to wrap things up and advance to the Finals with a win in Game 5. The Clippers, meanwhile, have to be kicking themselves. They took advantage of an awful Booker-Paul game in Game 3 and somehow got another gift from those two in Game 4 and could not capitalize on a perfect opportunity to even the series. George and Jackson were a combined 3-of-18 from three-point range, and their inability to figure out how to consistently get any kind of quality looks inside against Ayton and the Suns length was their ultimate downfall (along with free throw shooting). Now they have to regroup and figure out how to get a win in Phoenix, which will be rocking for Game 5, against a Suns team that will be feeling very good about themselves after gutting out a win in a game where they really weren’t close to their A-game.

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