Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton recorded 24 points and 14 rebounds in a dramatic playoff win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in Phoenix. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
June 23 (UPI) -- DeAndre Ayton caught an alley-oop pass and slammed the ball home in the final second to lead the Phoenix Suns to a dramatic win over the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night and take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Ayton totaled 24 points and 14 rebounds in the 104-103 victory at Phoenix Suns Arena.
"I had a lot of faith," Ayton told reporters after the game. "I knew that if [we] were throwing it up, they trusted me to finish it."
Cameron Payne scored a game-high 29 points with nine assists for the Suns. Star forward Paul George paced the Clippers with 26 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Clippers started the game on a 6-0 run, but the Suns answered with a 9-0 rally. Ayton scored 12 points in the first quarter helped the Suns earn a 25-22 edge in the frame.
The game stayed tight in the second quarter, but the Suns held onto their advantage and led 48-47 at halftime.
The teams traded the lead twice to start the third quarter before the Suns went on a 15-3 run for a 63-54 lead, their largest advantage of the night. The Clippers bounced back and trailed 75-71 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Suns started the final quarter on a 9-3 run, but George later led Los Angeles to a 101-100 lead with 31 seconds remaining. Phoenix's Devin Booker answered with a go-ahead jump shot seconds later.
With just over 20 seconds left, George answered with another jump shot to give the Clippers a 103-102 lead, but he missed two crucial free throws on the next possession.
The Suns missed their initial go-ahead shot in the final seconds, but an offensive rebound set up the game-winning alley-oop from veteran forward Jae Crowder to Ayton for the win.
Crowder launched the ball as Booker set a screen on Ayton's defender and the Suns center ran through traffic, jumped, caught the ball and dunked it as the buzzer sounded.
Referees reviewed the play and put 0.7 seconds back on the clock, but the Clippers weren't able to get a shot up in time.
Booker scored 20 points in the win and Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric added 11 points apiece for Phoenix. Reggie Jackson chipped in 19 points for Los Angeles in the loss and Clippers center Ivica Zubac notched 14 points and 11 rebounds.
''It is a hard game to swallow because look at this game, we've got this game won,'' Clippers guard Patrick Beverley told reporters.
''But we have been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches and we will respond well. We always do.''
The Western Conference Finals now shift to Los Angeles for Game 3 at 6 p.m. PDT Thursday.
The Suns have not lost in the playoffs since a 109-95 setback to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in the first round on May 27. Phoenix went on to beat the Lakers and swept the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals.