NBA playoffs: Paul George guides 'tough' Clippers to Game Three win over Suns in Western Finals

Still without star man Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles claim 106-92 win over Phoenix, who hold 2-1 series lead

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George celebrates after scoring during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Paul George scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to power the Los Angeles Clippers over the Phoenix Suns 106-92 on Thursday, delivering their first victory in the NBA semi-final playoff series.

Reggie Jackson added 23 points and Croatian centre Ivica Zubac had 15 points and 16 rebounds as the Clippers pulled within 2-1 of the Suns in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals with Game Four set for Saturday in Los Angeles.

It was a crucial victory for the Clippers as no team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. But for the third playoff series in a row, the Clippers won Game Three after dropping the first two.

It also delivered a measure of redemption for George, who missed two late free throws in Game Two that could have given the Clippers a vital win.

"This team is tough. We'll do whatever it takes," George said. "We trust one another. We've got each other's backs.

"We've just got great resilience. The team does a great job making adjustments, counters – we just play hard."

The Clippers remained without star Kawhi Leonard, out with a sprained right knee, while Devin Booker scored 15 points for the Suns with a protective mask due to a broken nose.

George played 43 minutes and with Leonard sidelined, he has stepped up to lift the Clippers.

"I'm going to make the extra plays. I'm going to give everything I have," George said. "I don't care how many minutes I have to play. I'm just going to leave it all on the floor."

Deandre Ayton, who scored the last-second dunk to give Phoenix the win in Game Two, led the Suns with 18 points while Chris Paul had 15 points and 12 assists.

Paul returned to the Phoenix starting lineup after missing 11 days while in Covid-19 safety protocols, missing his first six shots from the floor before hitting a jumper late in the second quarter.

The Suns took a 48-46 half-time lead but Clippers guard Terance Mann scored eight of his 12 points in just over three minutes at the start of the third quarter to put the hosts back on top.

The Clippers scored 11 straight points to open a 21-3 run that produced a 71-56 lead, with Mann netting eight to spark the spurt.

"This team is resilient. We never say die," Mann said. "We find ways to impose our will on opponents. We're just hungry."

George made a half-court jumper at the buzzer to end the third quarter, giving the Clippers an 80-69 lead entering the last 12 minutes and they kept the Suns at bay in the final period.

"My teammates allow me to play," George said. "Tonight I got on their backs in the fourth quarter."

The Clippers led 29-21 after the first quarter, their largest lead in the series to that point, after holding the Suns to 37% shooting from the floor in the first 12 minutes.

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