Phoenix Suns: 3 best playoff moments from a stunning run

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Can’t take it away: Phoenix Suns 2021 playoffs moment No. 2

The crushed nose and the Valley-oop.

The Suns were facing perhaps the best team in the NBA playoffs – the L.A. Clippers without Kawhi Leonard but with Paul George – and faced real trouble with less than a second remaining.

Earlier on that June 22 night, Devin Booker took a shot from Patrick Beverley’s head — square on the nose. It was a mess. And it added to the fans’ emotional overload (not to mention the players’ emotional overload … but more on that in Moment No. 1).

Jae Crowder threw the perfect pass, Booker set the perfect back screen and Deandre Ayton arrived where and when he had to, jamming home the winning bucket.

The Valley-oop became a thing … immediately.

Booker wasn’t surprised when meeting reporters after the game.

"I believed it could happen. 100 percent."

Ayton — more than anyone, it can be argued — has relished the spotlight of the playoffs.

He told the assembled media what he saw.

"Jae set it up right there perfectly. … I tried to set up (Ivica) Zubac for Book to have a good angle on him. And I believe once my feet touch the paint where I can go off right-left, one-two, I mean, not many people are gonna be up there with me."

Ayton finished a strong regular season that included a 10.5 rebounds-per-game average. Pretty good. But just when the Suns needed him to find an extra gear, Ayton pushed the limits of his abilities to establish a dramatic improvement: 13.2 rebounds per game during the NBA Finals and a 12.1 playoffs rebound average entering Tuesday’s Game 6.

Ayton and Booker hold primary positions in the future of this rivalry with the Clippers. Depending on L.A.’s roster construction during the offseason, this rivalry could approach a whole new level of contentiousness.