That Phoenix Suns has taken a leading 2-0 lead in the Western Conference final with permission for what has been described as the “perfect” last-second game call.
Once again without the All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the Suns stared down during a Game Two loss before Deandre Ayton finished one of the most notable games of recent years NBA Playoffs history to win a 104-103 victory over the LA Clippers.
Down by one point after taking a timeout with 7.8 seconds left, the Suns chances of winning the game shot out when an open three-point shot in the right corner for Mikal Bridges cannoned off the edge of the box and off the field with 1.1 seconds left on the clock.
However, a video review stated that the ball had come out of a Clippers player’s hand, giving the Suns a chance to get into the ball at baseline for a final shot with 0.9 seconds left.
Veteran swinger Jae Crowder was given the task of submitting and threw a perfect lob where the ball was missing the side of the back plate by just inches before Ayton directed it into the basket and triggered wild scenes.
While Clippers players and coaches were left calling goaltending, the curve was ruled as good after a review in which the Suns utilized a little-known rule in the NBA.
Normally players are not allowed to touch the ball while it is over the edge as it is considered as interference of the basket, but this is not the case if the pass comes outside the boundaries because it is impossible to score a basket directly from an out of borders cross.
“For either (goaltending or basket interference) to occur, a ball that is alive must enter the cylinder area after being legally touched on the playing field,” the NBA casebook says.
“All players should consider this type of game as a regular throw-in, and anyone can try to get the ball without penalty.”
Incredibly, the play was a replica of a Suns game four years ago that saw big man Tyson Chandler tip in an inbound pass on the buzzer after then-Suns coach Jay Triano pulled the game up.
At the time, Triano told reporters he had been sitting on the little-known rule for 15 years before exploiting it.
“I asked the officials when they come and do their clinics and seminars with the coaches, I asked them that 15 years ago when I was in Toronto,” he said.
“They had to go back [to the rule book] and look at it and come back. And I’ve been trying to keep it a secret. It’s not a secret anymore. “
Suns star Devin Booker, who was on the Suns team with Chandler, noticed the similarity between the two pieces when he said “I’ve seen this move before” after Ayton’s game winner.
After the win, Suns coach Monty Williams admitted that he “stole” the game-winning game from former Sixers coach Brett Brown and former Bucks coach Joe Prunty.
The game delimited what was a dominant performance from Ayton, the 2018 No. 1 pick, finishing with 24 points and 14 rebounds on just 12 of 15 shots, but he gave all the credit to Crowder for the pass and Devin Booker for the screen, who free him up.
“Jae put it perfectly up there,” he said.
“I tried to set up (Ivica) Zubac for Book to have a good angle on him, and I think when my feet touch the paint where I can go from right-left, one-two, I mean, not many people stay up there with me. “
The Crowder-to-Ayton connection ignored a Clippers rally led by Paul George, who had 26 points.
George made a layup with 31 seconds left to give the Clippers a 101-100 lead for their first advantage since early in the third quarter. He added a mid-range jumper in their next offensive possession for a 103-102 lead.
But there was much more action left.
George – and 85 percent of his career free-throw shooters – missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds left, giving the Suns a chance to steal the win.
“It was obviously an opportunity that was missed,” George said. “Pat (Beverley) made an incredible play that enabled me to extend the lead. I’m always sure of the free throw line. I have always been very successful in coupling moments at the free throw line. Tonight I just did not succeed. ”
The Suns, who have now won a franchise record nine straight playoff games, were led by Cameron Payne, who was brilliant as he started at the point guard position in Paul’s absence and finished with a career-high 29 points.
Phoenix played without Paul for the second straight game, with 11-time All-Star in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety record for the last week.
According to an ESPN report, there is “optimism” within the Suns organization that Paul could return to Friday’s Game 3 in Los Angeles.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain and he stayed in Los Angeles to get treatment for the injury.
A timetable for Leonard’s return has not yet been set initial fear that he had suffered ACL injury in Game 4 of the Clippers Series against the Utah Jazz.