The LA Clippers find themselves in a familiar position.
For the third straight series the Clippers will have to dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole, after a last-second Deandre Ayton bucket lifted the Phoenix Suns to a dramatic 104-103 win at home.
Despite the familiarity of the situation, this one stings more than previous occasions, with the Clippers holding a lead with 0.9 seconds left on the clock. What will sting even more is a pair of free-throws missed by Paul George with 8.2 seconds left that would given LA a 105-102 lead.
"I'm not going to put too much on that," George told reporters postgame.
"Obviously, it was an opportunity that was missed. Pat [Beverley] put me in a position to extend the lead. I've always been successful at the free-throw line in clutch moments. Tonight I was just unsuccessful."
It was a sour end to another strong night for George, who continues to shoulder a heavy load with Kawhi Leonard still out of the lineup with a right knee injury. Finishing with 26 points, five rebounds and six assists, head coach Tyronn Lue defended his star forward after the critical misses.
Big time bucket. pic.twitter.com/4pHlYhEpd5- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 23, 2021
"He's alright. It's part of the game, it happens. Without him, we wouldn't be in the game anyway. He made some big plays down the stretch," Lue said.
"Confidence of this team hasn't wavered, we got to go home now. There's good spirit. We just go to move on and get ready for Game 3."
The 31-year-old saw 41 minutes of court time in Game 2, as the Clippers' gruelling schedule continues after rolling straight into the Conference Finals against the well-rested Suns.
"He looked pretty tired tonight. Whenever he's taking a lot of jumpshots and not really attacking you can tell he's a little tired. He wants to win, he said 'coach whatever I need to do I'm ready to do it' and we needed him tonight. We get a day off tomorrow and then be ready to play," Lue said.
Point guard Patrick Beverley kept it short and sweet during his postgame availability believing the series is far from over as Game 3 and 4 now shift to STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
"I don't think you like to start two games in a hole. I don't think that's our plan," Beverley said. "This game, I've played a lot of games in this league, this one's a hard game to swallow because you look at this game and we got this game won. We've been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches and we'll respond, we always do."
"I think it's a good learning lesson for us. We crack jokes, we call T-Lue a Bill Belichick with all the adjustments he makes, he's definitely...or we are all going to find a way."
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