Welcome to the history books Deandre Ayton.
Ayton completed one of the most incredible plays in NBA history by slamming down an alley-oop pass from Jae Crowder in the final second to give the Phoenix Suns a dramatic 104-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Tuesday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
The play came after a sequence that saw Paul George make a go-ahead jumper in the final 30 seconds, Patrick Beverley strip Devin Booker on the ensuing possession, George miss two critical free throws that could have helped put it away for the Clippers and Mikal Bridges miss a three-pointer before Los Angeles deflected the rebound out of bounds to set up the Crowder-to-Ayton pass.
The Suns now lead the series 2-0 and are two wins away from the NBA Finals after brilliant showings from Ayton and Cameron Payne.
Notable Player Stats
- Cameron Payne, PG, PHO: 29 PTS, 9 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK
- Deandre Ayton, C, PHO: 24 PTS, 14 REB, 12-of-15 FG
- Devin Booker, G, PHO: 20 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB, 7 TO
- Paul George, G, LAC: 26 PTS, 6 AST, 6 REB
- Reggie Jackson, G, LAC: 19 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
Ayton and Payne Shine in Incredible Suns Win
The young Suns have grown up throughout these playoffs and never have they been under the spotlight more than in the first two games of this series without their veteran leader in Paul.
To the surprise of nobody, it was Booker who spearheaded the effort with a dazzling 40-point triple-double in Game 1. However, he was anything but dominant in Game 2 as he dealt with foul trouble, a bloody nose from a headbutt by Beverley, turnover problems (seven) and an ugly shooting night (5-of-16 from the field).
Fortunately for the Suns, the others were ready to make up for the lost production.
Ayton overpowered Ivica Zubac on the blocks in the early going and was in double figures before the end of the first quarter. Payne also used his explosiveness in the open floor and outside shooting prowess to lead all players in scoring, even while consistently dishing out assists.
A point guard leading the way for the Suns in such an important time wasn't a surprise, but surely nobody foresaw it would be Payne instead of Paul.
Even with all of that, it appeared as if Phoenix was going to lose when Booker's struggles continued in crunch time when he was stripped by Beverley while attempting to answer George's jumper.
Yet the big man and Crowder helped bail him out with the incredible finish and gave Suns fans a moment they will never forget.
Paul George's Shooting Woes Cost Clippers
George has already answered critics in impressive fashion this postseason by carrying the Clippers past the top-seeded Utah Jazz after Leonard was sidelined and turning in a number of head-turning performances.
Yet some of the struggles that proved costly in last season's playoffs returned Tuesday.
He forced the issue far too often from three-point range on his way to a 1-of-8 mark. He was also just 5-of-10 from the free-throw line, including the two misses in the final seconds that essentially cost his team the game.
It also undercut an otherwise solid performance from the Clippers.
Their physicality on the defensive end provided problems for Booker and kept them within striking distance. They also had seven different players who scored at least seven points and a double-double from Zubac in a balanced effort.
Reggie Jackson in particular continued his contested shot-making and carried the offense for stretches, and Beverley's defense stood out even when he unleashed some of his usual antics and trash talking.
Still, the collective effort wasn't enough to overcome the go-to option's shooting struggles, and the two free throws will likely haunt Clippers fans if their team cannot overcome a 2-0 deficit for the third series in a row.
The series shifts to Los Angeles for Thursday's Game 3 at Staples Center.