LOS ANGELES: This time, Paul George didn’t flinch. Playoff P showed up and dragged the Los Angeles Clippers back from the brink.
George scored 27 points and the Clippers pulled away in a dominant third quarter, beating newly returned Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns 106-92 on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
“We continue to chip away, try to find ways we can be better and impose our will on opponents,” Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said. “We showed a lot of heart, a lot of fight.”
The Clippers cut their series deficit to 2-1, ending the Suns’ franchise-record playoff winning streak at nine games.
Kawhi Leonard remained out with a right knee sprain, leaving George to carry the load again. After missing two crucial free throws in a one-point loss in Game 2, George had 15 rebounds and eight assists and played a game-high 43 minutes. He made 6 of 7 free throws.
“I knew I had to be better,” George said. “All my energy was directed toward a better game.”
The Suns got Paul back after he missed the first two games while being sidelined since June 16 because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The former Clipper, who was booed heartily during intros, had 15 points and 12 assists, but was 5 of 19 from the field.
Cameron Payne, who so ably filled in for Paul in the first two games, went down with a left ankle injury after playing four minutes and didn’t return.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he played Paul too much in his first game back.
“Probably got tired,” Williams said, “but it hurt us when Cam couldn’t come back so I left Chris out there for a longer stretch and that’s on me.”
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 18 points.
Jackson added 23 points for the Clippers, and Ivica Zubac had 15 points and tied his career playoff high with 16 rebounds.
Game 4 is Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at Staples Center.