Paul George’s 41-Point Night Helped The Clippers Stay Alive With A Win Over The Suns In Game 5

Over the weekend, the Phoenix Suns prevailed over the Los Angeles Clippers in a matchup that doubled as the lowest-scoring NBA game of the 2020-21 season. Beyond the trivia of the 84-80 rock fight, the Suns also took a 3-1 series lead in the 2021 Western Conference Finals and, by proxy, placed the Clippers in a win-or-go-home position for Game 5 in Phoenix. With their backs against the wall and shorthanded without Kawhi Leonard or Ivica Zubac, the Clippers bounced back on Monday, outlasting the Suns by a 116-102 margin to keep their title hopes alive.

After an offense-challenged performance in Game 4, the Clippers came out firing on Monday. Los Angeles scored the first seven points of the game within 75 seconds and, with the help of 9-of-11 shooting, the Clippers led 20-5 at the outset.

Part of that early onslaught could be attributed to Marcus Morris. The veteran, starting at center in place of Ivica Zubac, made his first six shots in the first seven minutes and, at one point, Morris was out-scoring the Suns by a 13-12 margin by himself.

Los Angeles scored 25 points in the first seven minutes but, just as they appeared to be firing on all cylinders, Phoenix made their first run. The Suns scored nine consecutive points, cutting the deficit to four and seemingly making the Clippers uncomfortable for the first time. However, Los Angeles managed to push their advantage back up to 36-26 at the end of the first quarter, riding 13 points from Morris and 12 points from Reggie Jackson to go along with 65 percent shooting as a team.

With Zubac out, the Clippers also turned to DeMarcus Cousins, and his minutes provided positive early returns. In fact, Cousins scored 10 points in his first five minutes on the floor, keying a 12-4 run that gave Los Angeles a 44-30 lead.

In keeping with the theme of the first half, the Suns countered in short order. Phoenix scored the next 12 points, climbing within just a two-point margin at 44-42.

The remainder of the first half went toward the Clippers, though, as Los Angeles never trailed before halftime in holding a 59-52 advantage. While the visitors didn’t shoot the lights out from the perimeter, the Clippers out-scored the Suns by a 34-8 margin in the paint, and only the three-point line and some brilliant play from Devin Booker (19 points in the first half) kept Phoenix within striking distance.

Phoenix kicked off the third quarter in style, using a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the entire game at 62-61. That success was short-lived, though, as the Clippers reeled off an immediate 10-0 run to regain control, eventually pushing their edge to 82-70 after a pair of three-pointers from Paul George and Patrick Beverley. The back-and-forth nature of the quarter was intriguing but fireworks also arrived between Beverley and Chris Paul, with the former drawing a controversial Flagrant-1 foul that to a five-point possession for Phoenix.

Eventually, the Clippers threw a haymaker late in the third quarter, scoring the final seven points of the period. That gave Los Angeles a 13-point lead and George was heavily responsible, as the All-Star wing scored 20 points in the third quarter alone.

With George off the floor to begin the fourth quarter, the Suns began a comeback bid behind Booker. The talented guard scored six points in 90 seconds, flashing his shotmaking arsenal, and Paul connected on a jumper to complete an 8-0 run that trimmed the margin to 96-91.

Right as things were teetering for Los Angeles as the Suns cut it to a four-point spread, the Clippers put together arguably their best stretch of the evening. Led by eight points from Jackson and more heroics from George, the Clippers pushed their edge to 112-96 with four minutes remaining, effectively putting the game away for good.

With their season on the line, the Clippers produced a monumentally impressive performance, particularly on the offensive side. Los Angeles shot 55 percent from the floor with 58 points in the paint, and they continued to be aggressive throughout the night. George was electric with 41 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes, with Jackson adding 23 points and Morris scoring 22 points in support.

On the Phoenix side, Booker enjoyed a productive performance with 31 points, and Cam Johnson added 14 points and three steals in a very strong effort in reserve duty. However, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul scuffled throughout the night and the Suns couldn’t generate enough stops to secure the Game 5 win that would have sent them to the 2021 NBA Finals.

From here, the series shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 6. While the Suns remain the favorites to advance with two chances to win one game, the Clippers once again displayed impressive resilience and they will have a chance to force a Game 7 by holding serve at Staples Center on Wednesday evening.