Well, that was … tough.
For the first time this postseason, it appeared the Clippers would finally win one of the first two games of their series, after having fallen behind the Mavericks, 0-2, in the first round and carrying the same deficit in the series against Utah. Already having lost Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Phoenix, the Clippers were leading the Suns with 0.9 seconds to play and a one-point lead, which could have been 3 points had Paul George not missed two free throws seconds earlier.
Then, this happened:
Yes, DeAndre Ayton continued to be a factor for which the Clippers have no answer, crushing L.A.’s hopes of a 1-1 series split with his 24th point coming on a ridiculously well-performed out-of-bounds play—especially that pass from forward Jae Crowder—that yielded a game-winning dunk.
After seeking to break their habit of 0-2 deficits, the Clippers instead find themselves in the same old hole.
“I’ll start off by saying that’s definitely Jae’s game-winner, making a great pass for a seven-footer,” Ayton said after the game. “Other than that, coach (Monty Williams) drew up a great play where I was in the best position. My teammates trust me and my coaches trust me, and Book set a great screen that freed me up into the lane to at least gather my feet and go for the ball, and the rest is just off my athleticism and my talent. Jae set it up right there perfectly.”
NBA Twitter Explodes on Ayton Dunk
And once it went down, the NBA Twitter-verse blew up.
Of course, Suns point guard Chris Paul, out because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, was among the first to react.
One of Crowder’s former teammates, Grizzlies star Ja Morant, gave him big-time credit.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who would look good in a Clippers uniform, chimed in on the pass, too.
Guard Andre Roberson, who played for the Thunder while Williams was an assistant coach there, gave him some credit for the call.
And Portland star C.J. McCollum, who would also make a handsome Clipper, had a more subtle take, giving credit to the screen set by Suns star Devin Booker, whose 40-point triple-double dominated Game 1 but who was limited to 20 points on 5-for-16 shooting in Game 2.
Did Clippers Know the Goaltend Rules?
After the play, there was disbelief all around, especially because many appeared to think there was an offensive goaltend with Ayton’s dunk. But according to the NBA rules, a goaltend can only happen on a shot attempt and an inbound play is, by definition, not a shot attempt.
Some of the Clippers, including George, did not seem to know that.
“It’s a little rule book thing,” Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said. “It’s one of those in-bound, can’t goal-tend. Doesn’t matter what’s happening. Shoot, you can just shoot at the basket, somebody touches it, it goes in. I knew that. I think a few of us knew it. Trying to relate to the guys. All we are trying do is get resettled and find a way to get a win in Game 2. Unfortunately, we didn’t do so, but we’ll figure out a way to be better.”