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Alexander: Things don’t go Clippers’ way in prolonged, wacky finish to Game 2

The old canard is that you can just watch the last two minutes of an NBA game and see everything you need to see.

Tuesday night in Phoenix that was almost true, only with a catch.

It was an amazingly eventful final 1:34 in a tremendously intense and entertaining game between the Clippers and Suns, won by Phoenix, 104-103, on Deandre Ayton’s dunk of Jae Crowder’s inbounds lob pass with 0.7 left on the clock. And thanks to the magic of video review, a minute and a half of magnificent craziness took a half an hour or so to complete.

Screwy yet memorable plays were followed by long stretches of everyone standing around, as the referees consulted with the replay center in Secaucus, N.J., five different times to determine if they’d really seen what they thought they had just seen.

“I’ve got to watch the film to make sure I’m not confused by all the events that happened,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.

You’ll probably be seeing this one on NBA TV soon as an instant classic, even if it’s cut down to the final half-hour – er, 1:34. For sure, Suns fans will place it in their mental galleries right alongside Garfield Heard’s buzzer-beater from the top of the key to force triple-overtime in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals. Or the night Steve Nash soldiered on even though he was a bloody mess, finally having to come out because of a cut on the bridge of his nose from an inadvertent head butt during Game 1 of the 2007 conference semifinals against San Antonio.

T-shirts with that image of Nash were spotted in the stands in Phoenix on Tuesday night. Maybe a decade or so from now they’ll be selling T-shirts of Devin Booker, blood dripping from a cut at the bridge of his nose following a run-in with Patrick Beverley on Tuesday night.

The Clippers’ problem? Those other two memorable moments wound up as Phoenix losses. No such luck this time.

How will Clippers fans remember it? It will depend on where this series goes from here. They are again in an 0-2 hole – “We’ve been in this position before, even though we hate it,” Coach Ty Lue said – and while they’ve dug their way out of the first two such predicaments this postseason, the degree of difficulty seems far stiffer now.

The heroes and villains are already lined up, depending on where your loyalties lie. Beverley, with his identity as a fierce competitor willing to assume any challenge and do whatever it takes, took on the responsibility of guarding Booker for most of Game 2. Among other things, Booker was 5 for 16 from the field and had seven turnovers – including one very big one at the end, caused by Beverley and upheld after another excruciating wait for the officials to hash it out with Secaucus.

And shall we say their duel turned out to be a nose for a nose? Booker, who had to go back to the locker room to get stitched up after he and Beverley bumped heads late in the third quarter, was called for an offensive foul with 1:06 left in the game when his forearm connected with Beverley’s nose and drew blood. The whistle blew after Beverley had fallen to the floor and while Booker was driving to the basket, and the foul wasn’t called until after the refs had gone to the monitor.

“I’ve never seen it,” Booker said. “I tried to get an explanation. I don’t know.”

Booker had the last laugh. It was his screen on Ivica Zubac on the deciding play that enabled Ayton to get to the rim unimpeded.

If this series is developing a personality, the blood might be as good a place to start as any. Both teams ramped up the physicality in Game 2, Beverley and later Rajon Rondo hounding Booker, Crowder and Co. doing the same to George.

Then again, with Kawhi Leonard still out and no indication that he’ll be available at all during this series, much of what the Clippers do and much of how they are perceived will revolve around George. And any reputation salvaging he did during the Utah series took a big hit Tuesday when he stepped to the foul line with 8.2 seconds left and his team ahead by a point.

Make one free throw, and the Suns need a 3-pointer to beat you and Ayton’s basket merely ties it. Make them both, and they can only force overtime with a 3-pointer. George, a career 85 percent free-throw shooter, made neither. The first lipped in and came back out. The second bounced long to Mikal Bridges, the Suns had life and Ayton ultimately cashed it in, after a timeout, a missed shot on a first inbound play, and a second inbound pass with 0.9 seconds remaining.

You didn’t possibly think there would be a straight line between missed free throws and the game-winning basket, did you?

“I’m not going to put too much on that,” George said. “Obviously it was an opportunity that was missed. Pat made an unbelievable play that put me in position to extend the lead. I’m always confident at the free-throw line. I’ve always been very successful in clutch moments at the free-throw line.

“Tonight I was just unsuccessful extending the lead. So I’m not going to put too much on that. Fact of the matter is, we still were in position to win a ballgame late in the game.”

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