An NBA game is 48 minutes long, but the little runs in short stretches often make the difference, and that was the case for the Phoenix Suns in their 129-124 win over the Clippers in Los Angeles.
With Kawhi Leonard out, Game 3 was a must-win affair for the Phoenix Suns. Fortunately for Phoenix, rather than playing from behind, as they have for much of the series, the Suns took a lead in the second quarter that they never relinquished. That lead came from a magical minute courtesy of all three of the Phoenix Suns’ stars.
The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with Devin Booker and Norman Powell trading blows as the pair combined for 23 of the 54 first-quarter points. Then with six points to open the quarter, Booker would set the pace early in the second as the Suns built a five-point lead at 32-27.
Of course, Powell, Bones Hyland, and a Morris twin sighting kept the Clippers hanging around, with LA reclaiming the lead 42-41, with 3:23 second to go in the half. At the time, no one in the building knew that would be the Clippers’ last lead, as over the next minute, the Phoenix Suns’ three superstars would make three plays and give Phoenix a lead they would not lose.
Three stars, three threes, and the lead the Suns would never let go of
Over the course of the next 58 seconds of game time from the Clippers’ lead, three shots turned the game. First, the Suns were scrambling offensively and were trying to move the ball against a Clippers team that was overplaying the passing lanes. Fortunately, Chris Paul could create space and kick the ball to Torrey Craig. As the defense started to step toward Craig behind the three-point line, he shuffled the ball to his right to KD, who nailed the trey.
It would be the only three-pointer Durant would hit all night, going just 1 of 3 from deep, but it was a big shot, as it put Phoenix back in the lead at 44-42 with 3:07 left in the half. After forcing a tough fadeaway from Russell Westbrook, which Bismack Biyombo corralled, the Suns were looking to stretch the lead.
CP3 got a switch defensively and had Ivica Zubac trying to guard him out past the three-point line. Our veteran point god knew exactly what to do as he used his jab step to create just enough space to get a high arcing three off over the 7-foot big man. As the ball went through and the Suns’ lead grew to five, 47-42, with 2:35 to go, the crowd was going wild, and then Booker made the play of the game.
Nicolas Batum and Westbrook were not paying much attention as they were inbounding the ball, and Booker snuck up behind Westbrook and snatched the ball from the guard’s grasp. From there, Booker dribbled away from the basket to the three-point line, then turned around and drilled a three.
The Suns had an eight-point lead at 50-42, and the Clippers were calling a timeout with 2:25 left in the second quarter. It may have been a 48-minute game, but its balance changed in that 42-second burst. LA would cut back into the lead, getting it down to three at the half and five late in the fourth quarter. However, Phoenix maintained control the rest of the game after that 9-0 spurt, with three big shots from our three big stars.