The Phoenix – Sons have been waiting 28 years since their last NBA Finals berth, now they have to wait two more days – at least.
Phoenix completely overtook Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday, losing 116-102 to LA Clippers to reduce the Suns’ series lead to 3-2.
In a game that felt like a complete upside down from Game 4 – when he went into the Suns Staples Center, he advanced to an early lead and never backed down – he saw Phoenix playing almost from behind all night. The Clippers advanced 20-5 in the first five minutes Marcus Morris Sr.. Couldn’t miss starting 6 for 6 from the field.
“The way we started the game was unacceptable,” said Sons coach Monty Williams. “It’s a big hole for us. It’s clear we can not play with a visual mindset. We showed in the first quarter, they played with frustration – simple and clear.”
Led Devin Booker (31 points) and Chris Paul (22 points and eight assists), the Suns rose again on several occasions, but never took control. With 8:27 remaining in the third quarter, they were down four points in the first quarter and two points in the second quarter before taking a 62-61 lead in the ball jumper. The Phoenix again scored four points with 6:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We need to close the quarters better,” Paul said. “It’s been a problem for us in every series. Closing quarters, those last 20, three – minute quarters. We took the lead, then we could cut it into one or two, and then they would get a bucket and run away.”
In fact, the Clippers took a 30-16 lead in the third quarter, with the Suns having the only lead of the game 20 seconds earlier. Then the fourth, then Dorey Craig In less than seven minutes he missed a free throw that could have reduced the Suns deficit to three points, leading the Clips to a dozen points lead at 10-2.
“This is for all of us,” Booker said. “They came out. They punched us in the face to start the game. I think we showed it tonight and sometimes, but they’s not going to come out easily, so we decided to lock in from the beginning.”
Suns Reserve Cameron JohnsonThe Phoenix, who saw their best game of the series wasted as they scored 14 points in a 5-to-6 shooting from the bench, were asked how he was processing the missed opportunity.
“Well, realizing it’s not easy,” he replied. “The playoffs are what’s hard, and everyone’s said, you can not expect a team to roll. They brought it in today, they gave us a tough time. So, we have to bring the next game.”
The Suns dominated near the basket on Monday, after beating the Clippers by 58 points in the first four games of the series. Despite not having an LA starting center, Phoenix outscored 58-32 in the paint throughout the night Ivica Zubak, Sprained right margin with MCL.
“It’s not something you expected, especially since they do not have a jubak tonight,” Williams said. “So, we will be better in the next game.
“Now Paramount in my mind, we have to play on the edge of more power and competition. We have to defend the ball.”
A team led by Clippers shot 54.8% Paul George, Scored a career-high 41 points in a 15-to-20 shootout.
“He got it,” Paul said. “He was coming to his places and making scenes. … We have to tighten it on him.”
Some of those defensive tragedies may be due to Booker. According to ESPN statistics and information analysis, when Booker was the primary defender, the Clippers went 14 out of 10 and scored 23 points. These playoffs are more than the 10 field goals he has left in a game.
“I think we’re ready to go to Game 6,” Booker said, looking forward to Game 6 on Wednesday. “It’s a tough loss for us at home, with a chance to go to the NBA finals, so we’re going to be ready.”
When the Phoenix gets a second chance to close things in two days, Williams said the Suns should come to the same kind of spirit that carried the clippers in Game 5.
“There has to be frustration. That’s the deal,” the coach said. “Just because you’re leading in this series doesn’t mean you can show it, they’re going to give it to you. We need to understand that, I think we’re doing it now. We’ll be better when we show up next time we play.”
Williams was asked if his team could tap into that frustration the next time he takes the court.
“Kicking your butt should make it run,” he said.