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    George keeps Clippers alive as Suns downed

    LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Paul George scored 41 points as the Los Angeles Clippers kept their NBA Western Conference finals series alive with a battling 116-102 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

    With the Suns poised to clinch a series victory in front of an expectant home crowd, George once again put the Clippers on his back to stave off elimination from the postseason.

    The Clippers talisman exploded for 20 points alone in the third quarter to take the game away from Phoenix, who took a fleeting lead midway through the period with a Chris Paul jump shot.

    It was the only time Phoenix held the lead throughout game five, and the Clippers can now level the series at 3-3 with a victory in game six in Los Angeles on Wednesday, (July 1, 9am Brunei time).

    “That’s just who we are – we fight, we’re scrappy, we leave everything on the line and we do it together,” George said of the Clippers’ never-say-die approach.

    “That’s the most important thing – we do it together.”

    Paul George of the LA Clippers drives to the basket against Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns during Game Five of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. PHOTO: AFP

    The win marked the third time during these playoffs that the Clippers have won an elimination game, and Monday’s win came without several starters including the injured Kawhi Leonard.

    “All season long we’ve been down guys, guys have been out, different guys have been stepping up and playing well,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.


    “I keep saying this group is resilient – but this group really is… We’re a good team no matter who’s on the floor. “Work’s not done. But we came into a hostile environment and got a greedy win without three of our starters.

    “Now we’ve got to do it again two more times.”

    George, who has stepped up as de facto team leader in the absence of the injured Kawhi Leonard, was in commanding form once more on Monday after a quiet first half performance.

    The Clippers star went 15-of-20 from the floor with three three-pointers, 13 rebounds and
    six assists.

    “I haven’t shot the ball well this whole series,” George said of his second-half display.

    “At some point I had to have a breakthrough. My teammates have been carrying me, and tonight I had to come through.”

    George was backed with 23 points from Reggie Jackson while Marcus Morris added 22 points. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 points.

    Phoenix meanwhile were led by Devin Booker with 31 points while veteran Paul had 22 points. Cameron Johnson added 14 points.

    The Clippers got off to a first start, opening up a 10-point lead at 36-26 after the first quarter and leading 59-52 at half-time.

    But Paul’s jump shot to give Phoenix their first lead of the night at 62-61 in the third quarter was the catalyst for George to take over.

    The 31-year-old seven-time All-Star erupted for 18 points over the remainder of the period, quickly restoring a double-digit lead for Los Angeles which ultimately proved decisive.

    Although Phoenix rallied in the fourth to get within five points, back-to-back three-pointers from Jackson helped the Clippers pull clear and close out the win.

    “They came out and punched us in the face at the start of the game,” Suns ace Booker said. “We need to be locked in from the beginning to end.”

    Phoenix coach Monty Williams, meanwhile, said the Clippers had played with “desperation”.

    “It was pretty obvious that we can’t play with a ‘show up’ mentality,” Williams said. “We showed up in the first quarter – and they played with desperation.

    “The desperation has to be there. You can’t just show up and expect them to give it to you.”

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