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Suns edge out Clippers behind monster performance from Deandre Ayton

The Suns squeaked by the Clippers with a Saturday road win, and can close out the third-round series on Monday to advance to the NBA Finals.

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the game against the LA Clippers during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 26, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.  Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are up 3-1 in their third-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers are one win away from securing a spot in this year’s NBA Finals after taking an 84-80 victory in the Staples Center on Saturday. Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket throughout the contest, but Deandre Ayton’s outstanding rebounding and defensive effort helped anchor the road team en route to a win.

Phoenix got out to a hot start and held a nine-point lead after the first quarter. Ayton tallied 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with six rebounds. The former Arizona Wildcat was a major deterrent at the rim with active hands, and the Clippers struggled to impact the game from the perimeter by going 3-for-15 from long range.

The Suns extended their lead to 14 at the break by winning the second quarter 21-16, but the Clippers begin their second-half surge in the third quarter by going 7-for-7 from the field after intermission. Los Angeles outscored Phoenix 30-19 in the third quarter to close the gap, and both teams hit a wall in the fourth.

The Suns and Clippers scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, in the final 12 minutes of the game, and both teams finished without their leading scorers. Devin Booker fouled out on an offensive foul in the closing minutes, leaving Chris Paul to close the game with clutch shots from the floor and the charity stripe. Paul George attempted to save the game for the Clippers late, but missed a critical free throw before using his last personal foul on Chris Paul in the closing seconds.

Ayton finished with 19 points, 22 rebounds, and four blocks. He led all players with 61 DKFP at the final buzzer while Paul (33.5) and George (29) had below-average outings. George paced the Clippers in points (23) and rebounds (16). The star wing notched 55 DKFP.

The Suns will chance to close out the series on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET at Phoenix Suns Arena.