The LA Clippers kept their season alive, avoiding elimination with a 116-102 win in Phoenix - a game the Suns will see as a missed opportunity to close things out on their home floor.
After winning the first two games of the series in their own building, Phoenix quickly fell into an 18-5 hole as the Clippers played with a desperation that was missing from the team holding a 3-1 lead, seizing every opportunity to turn the momentum of the game in their favour.
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"I don't have an answer for what I attribute it to. It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," Suns head coach Monty Williams said post-game.
"It was a big hole for us, it's pretty obvious that we can't play with a 'show up' mentality. We showed up in the first quarter and they played with desperation, simple and plain."
Context for Clippers win vs Suns in Game 5:- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 29, 2021
Clippers now have 7 wins when trailing in a playoff series, the most in a single postseason in NBA history
Paul George is the 2nd player with 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 75% shooting in a playoff game, joining Patrick Ewing. pic.twitter.com/Rb5k00pgpB
Paul's jumper with 8:27 remaining in the third gave the Suns a 62-61 lead after they came out of the break on a 10-2 run, but the Clippers quickly regained control of the contest, thanks to George's dynamic play, finishing the quarter with 20 points.
"We gotta close quarters better, that's been a problem for us all series long," Paul said post-game. "Closing quarters, those last two-and-a-half, three minutes of quarters, we took the lead, maybe cut it to one or two and then they get a bucket, then they go on a run."
"Look at it, see what we gotta do better and get ready for the next one."
Buckets from Reggie Jackson and DeMarcus Cousins closed out the first quarter for the Clippers and if not for Devin Booker's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Suns would have been held scoreless over the final 3:11 of the second quarter.
It was much of the same in the third as Batum, George and Cousins capped off the third quarter with a 7-0 run over the final two minutes.
"They played with determination, we have to realise we're trying to close out a series against a team that's been there before and they're going to claw and scratch and do whatever it takes," Williams added.
"We have to have that mentality, I didn't feel that in the first quarter, as the game progressed we had it and then they had confidence because they were making shots."
Ty Lue is now 10-2 in elimination games in his coaching career. pic.twitter.com/g3kJKNLX0p- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 29, 2021
The Suns have been ruthless in close-out games through the first two rounds of the postseason, taking out the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets at the first time of asking, both times winning on the road.
They will have another opportunity to book their spot in the NBA Finals, when the series shifts back to LA for Game 6, scheduled for Wednesday, Jun. 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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