Is it too late to give Monty Williams the Coach of the Year Award?
With 0.9 seconds remaining in the game, and the referees reviewing an out-of-bounds play, Williams gathered his Suns team together to draw up one last-play.
Jae Crowder inbounded the ball and threw a lob pass to DeAndre Ayton at the rim who slammed it home to give the Phoenix Suns a 104-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Ayton finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds, but the only one he will remember is the final dunk.
"D.A. If he throws it [to you] you have to try and dunk it," Williams could be heard saying in the huddle before the lob play.
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And dunk it he did.
“The celebration and reaction were a little shaky,” Ayton said. “Because I wasn't sure what I did. I wasn't sure if it counted."
It did count, and the Suns now have a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series.
Fresh off his 40 point performance in Game 1, Devin Booker was hit in the nose during the third quarter and needed stitches in the locker room. Booker finished with 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Cameron Payne, starting in place of Chris Paul scored a team-high 29 points.
“We just had no answer for Cameron Payne,” said Clippers' head coach Ty Lue. “He got downhill all night. His speed and his quickness really hurt us all night.”
Paul George led the Clippers with 26 points in the loss.
Chris Paul sat out for the second straight game because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his fourth consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.
The Suns had a three point lead at 100-97 with less than one minute remaining in the game. However, after two free throws by Paul George, Ivica Zubac blocked a layup attempt by Cameron Payne and George got a layup at the other end to give the Clippers the lead, 101-100. It was just the second lead for the Clippers in the second half, and the first of the fourth quarter.
Booker and George traded jump shots before a replay review of a ball that appeared to be knocked out of Booker's hands by Patrick Beverley was reversed and the ball was awarded to the Clippers.
“It is a hard game to swallow because look at this game, we've got this game won,” Beverley said. “But we have been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches and we will respond well. We always do.”
Los Angeles inbounded the ball to George who was immediately fouled, but he missed both free throws.
“Obviously, it was an opportunity that was missed,” George said. “Pat made an unbelievable play that put me in the position to extend the lead. I am always confident at the free throw line. I have always been very successful in clutch moments at the free throw line. Tonight, I was just unsuccessful.”
Mikal Bridges had an open three-pointer on the next possession, but the shot didn't fall and the ball went out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining.
That's when the lob play that you'll see replayed for years went down.
“I believed it could happen," said Booker of the final inbounds play. “100 percent.”
The Suns now have a 2-0 lead in the series as it heads back to Los Angeles on Thursday. However, the Clippers find themselves in familiar territory. In each of the first two rounds of the playoffs they found themselves down 0-2 in the series before rallying to beat the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz, respectively.
Paul is expected to return for Game 3 of the series in Los Angeles.