How Tyronn Lue’s plays and calls drove Game 3 to victory

It was 1:30 a.m. Wednesday when the Clippers flight from Phoenix landed in Los Angeles. But Tyronn Lue had no intention of sleeping.

Once in his car off the track, he phoned forward Paul George as he drove home. Then the coach called Patrick Beverley. He kept calling his roster, not wanting the shared heartbreak of three hours earlier, when the Clippers had lost two games in their first Western Conference final by a last-second basket, to last as the last image of the night.

“I called some of the guys and said, ‘This is over,'” Lue said. “We had a chance to win the game, we didn’t, it’s over, so now we have to move on.”

Terance Mann said: “It was a short conversation. We knew what we had to do ”.

Less than 48 hours later, what the Clippers did Thursday at Staples Center was call another postseason comeback in which they have become their defining trademark, their 106-92 Game 3 win proving, once again, the dangers of taking on these Clippers, even as their rotation dwindled further as Phoenix added a healthy Chris Paul after a week had passed by NBA COVID protocols.

Between free throws in the third quarter, George pulled up his pants, crouched down with a deep breath, and it showed with his six turnovers. He played 43 minutes, 10 more than any teammate, but finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists and blew “my girl and my babies” kisses with both hands after his three-point shot from a step inside. the half court line will end the third quarter.

Video highlights from the Los Angeles Clippers’ 106-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on June 24, 2021, at Staples Center.

After 12 games in their last 22 days, the Clippers are exhausted. But there was enough energy for Mann to flex his biceps in the middle of his momentum, in a third quarter in which he scored 10 of his 12 points.

There was enough gas in the tank for Beverley to go back to harassing Phoenix’s Devin Booker to hit only 5 of 21 shots.

There was enough for Marcus Morris to play 24 minutes, scoring eight points with five rebounds, on a left knee bad enough that the team feared he would not play at all, and for Ivica Zubac to score 15 points with 16 rebounds, the best playoff performance of his young career.

There was enough for Reggie Jackson to hit his chest after his five straight points with six minutes remaining in the game, lifted the Clippers’ lead to 11, a steady response that held up after a shaky start to the fourth quarter. .

And when the Suns took a timeout four minutes later, with the Clippers leading by 16, Jackson had plenty of energy to move his fingers at the 17,222 crowd, calling for more noise when the building had apparently reached its limit.

Even with an injured Kawhi Leonard missing his fifth straight game and watching from a suite on his team’s bench, “we never had any doubts,” said Jackson, who scored 23 points. “This team is hungry. He is always hungry to improve ”.

Clippers forward Paul George drives against the defense of Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, and center Deandre Ayton during Game 3 on Thursday night at Staples Center.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers’ ambitions to land their first NBA Finals have yet to be thwarted, and it all started during and after a flight that set the tone.

During his call, Lue comforted George, who had missed two free throws with eight seconds remaining in Game 2.

“I think the relationship that I have with T is special, and the relationship that T Lue has with each individual on this team,” George said. “It just says a lot about him and his leadership.”

Paul, whose arrival with the Clippers 10 years ago opened the “Lob City” iteration of this franchise’s championship aspirations, couldn’t close the door to his old team’s realistic chances of advancing further than ever. Paul scored 15 points, with 12 assists, but was 5 of 19.

“You could tell they had a lot more energy,” Paul said. “I have to be better.”

Booker and Paul made two of 10 shots each in the first half. One game after a career-high 29 points, Cam Payne limps out early, an ankle injured. The Clippers led by eight after one quarter, only to see the lead erased midway through the second quarter through mistakes made.

With no turnovers for 13 minutes, the Clippers committed four in their next four minutes, with three from Rajon Rondo, the player the Clippers acquired in March for the express purpose of building on their reputation for postseason stability. Instead, the Clippers were outscored by eight points in their eight minutes and Phoenix was two up at halftime despite throwing 11 fewer free throws.

Then the third most important quarter of his season unleashed. Trailing 53-50 with two minutes into the break, the Clippers unleashed a 21-3 streak over the next seven minutes.

“We know we were between a rock and a hard place 0-2, but we never gave up,” Lue said. “The work that Pat Bev has done has been tremendous. I think Zu has been very good tonight. Reggie down the stretch; PG through the first three quarters and got tired, but we had to play with him the entire second half.

Praised for his adjustments this postseason, Lue kept Rondo on the bench after the break, where center DeMarcus Cousins ​​also stayed after two irregular games.

But they were among the Clippers who rushed onto the court to greet George after the bell of the third quarter, after he hit his shot, a moment that helped a fatigued but undaunted team say goodbye to Phoenix’s hopes of sweeping them away. .

Clippers-Suns finals schedule

Clippers-Suns finals schedule

(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

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