Ayton's Game-Winning 'Valley-Oop' Gives Suns 2-0 Lead Over Clippers


The pass angle from Jae Crowder was pristine. The screen from Devin Booker (and his freshly stitched nose) was gutsy. And the leaping finish from Deandre Ayton was jaw-dropping.

In a flash, the Phoenix Suns had stunningly seized a one-point advantage on an out-of-bounds play that had started with less than a second remaining on the game clock. A lengthy officials’ review then confirmed the basket, sending a Phoenix Suns Arena crowd that has been raucous throughout the postseason into an absolute frenzy.

That play quite literally lifted the Suns to an instant-classic 104-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night to push their lead to 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals.

“Jae set it up right there perfectly,” Ayton said. “… I tried to set up (Ivica) Zubac for Book to have a good angle on him. And I believe once my feet touch the paint where I can go off right-left, one-two, I mean, not many people are gonna be up there with me.”

It was the exclamation point on a chaotic final minute of a series that has already become a thriller.

The Clippers erased a six-point Suns lead with less than three minutes to go, with a Paul George layup giving Los Angeles a 101-100 edge with 34.3 seconds remaining. Booker answered with a quick pull-up jumper, but then George hit a 21-footer with 22.2 seconds to play.

On the Suns’ next possession, an official review determined that Booker last touched a ball that slipped out of bounds with 9.3 seconds to go. But when the Suns were forced to foul, George missed both free throws to keep the Clippers’ lead at 103-102.

Out of a timeout, Mikal Bridges missed a corner 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining, but the loose ball went off the Clippers to set up Ayton’s wild game-winner.

Suns coach Monty Williams said his team had never walked through that specific alley-oop play, and called it a blend between a play former Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown used to run when Williams was an assistant on that staff in 2018-19 and a Tyson Chandler game-winner during the Suns’ 2017-18 season.

“I wish I was that bright, but I’m not,” Williams said. “I steal from everybody.”

The game-winner was the first of Ayton’s NBA career, and capped another dominant postseason outing. He finished with 24 points on 12-of-15 shooting and 14 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the playoffs.

Phoenix also got an outstanding performance from Cameron Payne, who scored a career-high 29 points and added nine assists in his second consecutive start in place of All-Star Chris Paul (health and safety protocols).

This was the Suns’ ninth consecutive playoff victory to extend a franchise record.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Los Angeles.



Cam Johnson on his team's resilience: "I'm really proud of this team. I'm really grateful to be a part of it. It's something really special and it's nothing I take for granted at all."

Devin Booker on Ayton’s game-winner: “Even talking to (Rajon) Rondo at halfcourt after the (play), he was like, ‘It don’t count.’ I was like, ‘I’ve seen this movie before (with Chandler’s game-winner). It counts.’ So it’s an incredible play, incredible execution on all ends.”

Monty Williams on the win: “It was just one of those things that happens where you’re just grateful for it. The will of our guys to just stay with it, I don’t think we played great tonight, but we made enough plays to win the game … It was unreal execution at the end, and for us, the mental stamina to just stay in there and not give up when it looked like it wasn’t gonna go our way.”

Booker on his nose injury that required stiches: “My first time was seeing it was after the game. … It’s a little crooked.”

CLICK HERE for the Suns full media availability.


Cameron Payne: 29 points, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Deandre Ayton: 24 points, 14 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Devin Booker: 20 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds

Dario Šarić: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Cam Johnson: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steals



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