The Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 84-80 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
They fought their emotions. They haggled with referees. They scored 84 points in a playoff game and somehow awakened on the doorstep of the NBA Finals. Their victory was a masterpiece of winning ugly.
What a strange game. Devin Booker ditched his mask after missing a layup. Chris Paul lost a shoe. Abdel Nader took Torrey Craig’s minutes, playing for the first time since mid-March. The two teams combined to miss 111 shots. They played four full minutes in the fourth quarter, where neither team made a field goal.
And in the most Clipper thing ever, Boogie Cousins intentionally missed a free throw in the closing seconds by flailing the ball high off the backboard, a violation of NBA rules.
The series now heads back to Phoenix, with the Clippers staring down a 3-1 series deficit. Erasing that lead isn’t impossible (see: the Clippers’ postseason last year), but it’s the most dire position the Clippers have found themselves in a playoff run defined by comebacks.