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Deandre Ayton’s huge dunk puts Suns up 2-0

Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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We’ll dive right into the only game played on Tuesday evening, followed by some results and notes on the NBA lottery, new Team USA members and some various news around the league in what ended up being a wild night.

Suns 104, Clippers 103 (PHO leads series 2-0)

This was probably the weirdest game of this postseason thus far for various reasons, with the final few seconds being unlike anything we’ve seen in decades, if ever. After some back-and-forth clutch shots from Devin Booker and Paul George, the officials decided to review a Patrick Beverley steal on Booker with 9.3 seconds left in the game. Anyone who has seen these replays knows that, even if you slow it down and see that it goes off of the offensive player (Booker, in this case), the NBA referees have been historically taught to judge who caused the ball to go out of bounds, not who touched it last. It was a shock to see Scott Foster give the ball to the swiper as opposed to the swipee, but alas the Clippers got the ball back. Just 2.5 seconds later, Paul George gets fouled, misses both free throws to remain up one point, and the Clippers lose the game on an insane Jae Crowder to Deandre Ayton out-of-bounds alley-oop with 0.7 left on the clock to go up 2-0 in the series. I know I’m not the only one to say this, but this was the clearest definition of “Ball Don’t Lie” that I’ve probably ever seen. What a thriller.[[ad:athena]]

All in all, Game 2 was much more defensive-minded than Game 1, with both teams combining for 207 points as opposed to the 234 that Game 1 produced. Devin Booker scored 20 points with four boards, five dimes and seven turnovers (which we expect to see with him handling the ball more often sans Chris Paul), but was probably the third best Suns player tonight. He was the recipient of a Pat Bev head-butt late in the third quarter and went to the locker room to receive some stitches on his nose, but he’s fine and came back to start the fourth. Deandre Ayton, as mentioned, made the game-winning dunk to finish off his impressive evening with 24 points (12-of-15 FG), 14 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 35 minutes. DA had 12 points and five boards in the first quarter alone and was feasting early, and had a nice second half after being invisible in the second quarter to help seal the win. This was also Ayton’s fifth 20-point, 10-rebound game of the postseason, giving him the most of those types of games in a single postseason by a Suns player since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. Cameron Payne was the highlight of the night, however, scoring a career-high 29 points (regular season and playoffs) to go with a board, nine assists (ties playoff career high), two steals, two block and two triples in 37 minutes. As much as the Suns do miss Chris Paul, as any team rightfully would, Payne is filling in just fine and has been making some noise these entire playoffs, with this eruption being the highlight. His story is even more inspiring when we remember that he was a failed lottery pick in OKC, maybe even worse on the Bulls, had some 10-day contracts before being out of the league, had a stint in China, went nuts in the G-League, and then signed with Phoenix right before their insane 8-0 run in last season’s Orlando bubble. You can’t make this stuff up, so the campaign for Cam Payne is real.

The Clippers are in very familiar territory as they’ve now fallen to 0-2 to start their first three playoff series this season, but given that they’re one of the four teams left in contention, anyone who counts them out is foolish to say the least. Remember, they started 0-2 against Dallas, won in 7, and started 0-2 against Utah, proceeding to win four straight to get to where they are now. No one would be surprised if they came back with a vengeance and tied up the series by Saturday, but the detail missing from this formula is none other than Kawhi Leonard, whose diagnosis still remains a mystery. Without Kawhi, Paul George has been carrying the load, starting off slow tonight but finishing with 23 points (10-of-23 FG, 5-of-10 FT), six boards, six dimes, one 3-pointer and three turnovers in 41 minutes of action. The free throws were quite uncharacteristic from George who is usually in the 80s percentage-wise from there, but those two he missed down the stretch truly did cost his team the game. Reggie Jackson continues to play well and racked up 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and three triples in 39 minutes, and he’s even in 50/40/90 territory this postseason to further show how solid he’s been. Patrick Beverley started and played tenacious defense on Devin Booker to hold him to just 5-of-16 from the field (and helped him get to his seven turnovers), but per usual didn’t show up on the stat sheet with six points and four boards with two triples in 26 pesky minutes. Ivica Zubac also started and had an efficient 14-point, 11-rebound double-double, with his only other stat being his one block on Cameron Payne late in the fourth to what looked like was going to be a game-winning swat. Marcus Morris Sr. still isn’t quite right due to his left knee, playing 25 minutes on his way to seven points, five rebounds, a block and a triple, and even coach Lue acknowledged that he wasn’t moving quite right, so he’s sure to show up on the injury report yet again. Luke Kennard was the option when Lue went away from Morris, and he scored 10 points off the bench with two 3-pointers, all coming in the fourth quarter.

Draft Lottery

As we are just slightly over halfway through these playoffs time-wise, we are already looking ahead to next season with the NBA lottery being held on Tuesday evening. The top-14 picks are as follows:

  1. Detroit Pistons
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Orlando Magic
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder
  7. Golden State Warriors
  8. Orlando Magic
  9. Sacramento Kings
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
  11. Charlotte Hornets
  12. San Antonio Spurs
  13. Indiana Pacers
  14. Golden State Warriors

Ben Wallace brought the Pistons good luck without even bringing a good luck charm as the Detroit lottery representative, and while it’s not a sure thing, it looks like they’ll be adding Cade Cunningham to their team for next season. The Orlando Magic have two top-8 picks after a poor season, while Houston and Cleveland will also get a top-3 guy. If the Toronto Raptors get an NBA-ready guy at the No. 4 pick, they could almost immediately be a contender in the Eastern Conference. Remember, the Raptors are still an incredibly solid team right now, but they went full tank-mode basically from the start of the season, Nick Nurse hated playing Chris Boucher because Aron Baynes was on his fantasy team, and they Kyle Lowry didn’t want to miss out on his timeshare in Cancun. Now, they’ll get a fresh start and a new young man that could be ready to contribute as soon as they call his name on draft night. The draft is still over a month away, but with time moving the way it is, will be here before we know it. Some of the guys expected to go early include Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Kuminga, and that’s just the start of what should be a very deep 2021 NBA draft class.

Team USA Updates

The Team USA roster for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is slowly taking shape, as Khris Middleton, Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday all committed to the squad on Tuesday. Kevin Love is an interesting part of this team, as he’s 32 years of age and has missed a whopping 113 games over his last three years due to various injuries, meaning Love played in just 43.6% of games in that span. It’s good that he’s feeling healthy enough to participate, but he may not play a ton while over there. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are both solid additions and should be able to lock up the majority of international competition that comes their way, and whatever offense they bring is a plus as well. Chris Paul originally was expected to participate but ended up officially declining an invitation, which makes a whole lot of sense for the Point God. If the Suns get a trip to the NBA Finals, the offseason for the newly-turned 36-year-old would be very quick, and he can’t afford a bad injury this late in his career as he’s sure to begin really valuing rest and health over all. Kyle Lowry is another guy to decline an invitation, which he claimed was due to him going into free agency this summer. He’s also 35 years old but almost doesn’t look it, as when he’s healthy, he’s still one of the top point guards in the league, but will sit this one out regardless.

With Paul and Lowry declining and with these three additions, 11 of the 12 roster spots are officially filled, with the nearly-complete list being:

So, while adding Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry sure wouldn’t hurt this team’s chances at coming away with the gold, they’re still pretty stacked and in fantastic shape to make a run for it. We’ll see how these guys fare as soon as late July.

Hurt Hawks

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be Wednesday, June 23 at 8:30PM EST. The Bucks will have all of their guys besides, of course, Donte DiVincenzo, who won’t play again this postseason after having left ankle surgery, but the rest of their guys should be ready to go.

The Hawks, on the other hand, are a little more banged up. De’Andre Hunter remains out, which is a huge blow, but they’ve fared just fine without him thus far. Bogdan Bogdanovic is questionable with his right knee issues, and had just four points on 2-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes in Sunday’s Game 7 against the 76ers, so something’s still not quite right with him. He’ll almost surely play in Game 1, but whether he’s 100% after two full days off is up in the air. Kevin Huerter was another story in Game 1, scoring 27 to lead the Hawks and stun the 76ers, and is currently probable for Game 1 with left ankle soreness. Once again, there is almost no chance Huerter sits out of the ECF because his knee is sore, especially with the momentum he’s probably carrying from his last showing, so look for him to suit up as well.

Spencer Dinwiddie cleared for takeoff

Tuesday also saw some good news in the way of Spencer Dinwiddie being cleared for basketball activities, per his operating surgeon. He recovered from his partial ACL tear in a hair over five months and, while he would make the Nets even deeper than they already are, he’ll be one of the more popular point guards when he hits free agency. He’s a starting caliber point guard on most NBA teams, and if he lands in the right spot, he could make for some sneaky, mid-round fantasy value for next season. Just be weary of his percentages, as they aren’t always great, but most other parts of his game are helpful to your lineup.

What’s Next: Looking ahead, the Clippers will look to avoid a 3-0 deficit at home on Thursday, but first, we’ll get the first look at the Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks in Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. There are plenty of goodies to look out for in this series, including who’ll be primarily responsible for guarding Trae Young, who will stop Giannis, which Bucks decide to show up, the health of Bogey and so much more.