By R.L. Bynum
Could it be time for the Phoenix Suns to give Cameron Johnson more shots?
For only the fifth time this season and the first time in the playoffs, Johnson has scored in double figures for a third consecutive game. But it wasn’t enough Thursday as the host Los Angeles Clippers beat Phoenix 102–92 to trim the Suns’ lead in the Western Conference finals to 2–1.
Playing a playoff-high 30 minutes, 25 seconds, his most since playing 33 minutes at Brooklyn on April 25, Johnson scored 12 points with a 10.0 game score to follow up a 12-point effort in Game 1 (11.6 game score) and an 11-point night in Game 2 (11.4 game score).
This is only the second time this season Johnson has put up double-digit game scores in three consecutive games. He did it in the regular season from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31. Before the last three games, he had only two double-digit game scores during the playoffs (May 23 and June 3, both against the Los Angeles Lakers.)
While Johnson was 4 of 7 from the floor, the Suns’ two best players didn’t shoot nearly as well. Chris Paul, in his return to the lineup after missing the first two games of the series under health and safety protocols, was 5 of 19 and Devin Booker was 5 of 21 with both scoring 15 points.
According to Elias, that was the third-worst shooting percentage by a starting backcourt in the last 50 NBA postseasons.
“They just kind of outplayed us tonight,” Johnson said. “So, we have to bring it tomorrow and get ready for the next one. They definitely came out and gave us a good shot today. They played better than us; they played harder than us. The thinking is we’ve just got to keep our heads, weather the storms.”
Johnson, who pulled down four rebounds and dished out two assists, drew praise from ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy in the first half after cutting to the basket to take a pass from Paul to score a twisting reverse layup.
“He can shoot the three and he can cut? That’s a lethal combination when you play with a great point guard,” Van Gundy said.
Johnson was 2 of 5 from 3-point range and scored seven of his points in the first half. For the series, the second-year pro out of UNC is 14 of 20 from the floor and 5 of 11 from 3-point range.
Johnson’s two 3-pointers gave him 19 for the postseason, tying Clifford Robinson for 25th on the Suns’ all-time list. Johnson has at least one 3-pointer in 12 of 13 playoff games.
Game 4 is Saturday night at 9 p.m. (ESPN) in Los Angeles.