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The Clippers have been on the ropes multiple times this postseason, and that was once again the case Monday night. But as they did against both the Mavericks and Jazz, Tyronn Lue’s team came out fighting. With their healthy star doing what’s expected, and some members of the “supporting cast” stepping up, the Clippers managed to extend the Western Conference Finals to a sixth game.
Clippers 116, Suns 102: PG-13, L.A. fight off elimination
With Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka having already been ruled out, the Clippers lost another player before Monday’s Game 5 in Phoenix. Ivica Zubac, who hadn’t missed a game in two seasons, had to sit out due to a sprained MCL. Due to his absence the visitors went small, with Terance Mann (4/2/2/1 in 26 minutes) moving into the starting lineup and DeMarcus Cousins returning to the rotation. Cousins made the most of his 11 minutes, scoring 15 points with two rebounds, three assists and one steal. While Cousins’ play wasn’t the biggest reason why this series carries on, it certainly helped the visitors.
The Clippers came out firing from the start, with Marcus Morris leading the way. And in the second half it was the “Paul George Show,” as he scored 30 points to lead Los Angeles to the win. Morris shot 6-of-7 from the field in the first quarter, ultimately finishing the game with 22 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes. He was one of three starters to score at least 22 points, with Reggie Jackson adding 23 to go along with five rebounds, three assists, one block and four 3-pointers. George was the third, going off for 41 points (15-of-20 FGs, 8-of-8 FTs), 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three 3-pointers.
Not only did George establish a new playoff career-high, but he also became the fourth player in league history to score 20 points or more in the first 18 games of a particular postseason. The other three players on that list are Michael Jordan (three times), Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
Due to their lack of size the Clippers needed to send more bodies at Deandre Ayton, and the approach was effective. That being said, there’s no way that he should only have nine shot attempts in a game like this. Ayton made five, finishing with a line of ten points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot, while failing to attempt a single free throw. Look for this to be a point of emphasis as the Suns prepare for Game 6, as Ayton tends to have his best all-around games when he gets early scoring opportunities.
The only Suns to hit double figures in field goal attempts were Devin Booker (9-of-22) and Chris Paul (8-of-19). Booker finished with 31 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and four 3-pointers, while Paul was responsible for 22 points, three rebounds and eight assists. Since his return to the team after a case of COVID-19, Paul has struggled to regain the form that was key in the Suns’ rolling through the first two rounds. CP3 is a combined 19-of-60 from the field (2-of-16 3-pointers) in this series, with Monday’s effort being the best of the three games that he’s played in.
The good news for Phoenix is that it got another good game out of Cameron Johnson, who shot 5-of-6 from the field and finished with 14 points, four rebounds, three steals and three 3-pointers in 23 minutes off the bench. But it wasn’t enough to help the Suns overcome their terribly slow start, as the Clippers scored 20 of the game’s first 25 points. Mikal Bridges (5/3/1 with one 3-pointer) and Jae Crowder (4/4/6) failed to have much of an impact offensively, shooting a combined 4-of-11 from the field.
Hawks’ Young questionable for Game 4
After suffering what appeared to be a right ankle injury during the third quarter of Sunday’s Game 3 loss to the Bucks, Trae Young underwent an MRI on Monday. And the results were a bit worse than the expected ankle sprain, as the team announced that the point guard has a bone bruise in his right foot. Young is considered to be questionable for Tuesday’s game, and if he can’t go that would be a huge issue for the Hawks. Lou Williams would become a player of even greater importance to the Hawks from a playmaking standpoint, but that really isn’t is game. Williams would be worth rolling the dice on in DFS, but players shouldn’t expect too much when it comes to assists.
Would that also free up an opportunity for Kris Dunn to play? Possibly, but he missed most of the regular season due to injury and hasn’t been a consistent rotation player. And it’s worth noting that the Hawks are already shorthanded on the perimeter, as De’Andre Hunter (right knee) is done for the season and Cam Reddish (right Achilles) has played sparingly since being cleared to return. Add in Bogdan Bogdanovic, who’s listed as probable due to a sore right knee that has been a nuisance since late in the Philadelphia series, and the Hawks have been hit by the injury bug at the worst possible time.
As for Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as probable due to tightness in his left calf. He played Game 3 with a sleeve on his leg, ultimately logging 41 minutes and posting a 33/11/4/2/1 line on 13-of-21 shooting from the field. Look to see Antetokounmpo on the court in his usual role, likely playing at least 40 minutes as the Bucks look to tighten their grip on the series.
USA Basketball announces the men’s Olympic roster
While news of the players who were selected to represent the United States in men’s basketball trickled out over the course of the weekend, USA Basketball officially revealed the 12-member squad on Monday. Kevin Durant, who will be playing in the Summer Olympics for the third time, headlines the squad. It’s worth noting that three of the players, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, are still alive on the postseason. Winning the championship would mean that those players wouldn’t have much separation between the end of their team’s season and the start of the Olympics.
Also on the team are Bam Adebayo, Bradley Beal, Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love and Jayson Tatum. Gregg Popovich will serve as head coach in the Olympics for the first time, with Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce and Jay Wright making up his coaching staff. Durant (2012 and 2016), Green (2016) and Love (2012) have all won Olympic gold medals in the past, while Middleton and Tatum are the only returnees from the team that finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.