By R.L. Bynum
Cameron Johnson had a career-best playoff scoring night with a playoff-high three 3-pointers but they weren’t enough to help his Phoenix Suns close out the Los Angeles Clippers.
Los Angeles avoided elimination with a 116–106 road victory Monday to trim Phoenix’s series lead to 3–2 and send the series to L.A. for Game 6 on Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ESPN).
Johnson scored 14 points, tied for his 11th-best regular-season output, and made all three 3-point attempts. His 11.8 game score was second only in the playoffs to his 12.3 in the Suns’ series-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on June 2.
Johnson seemingly is open in the corner on many half-court possessions but just doesn’t get that many shots. He got only six shots in 23 minutes on Monday.
Johnson’s steal and running layup for a 3-point play with 6:58 left cut the Clippers lead to 98–94.
“You make a run and the team is going to respond to make one of their own,” Johnson said. “We got there early in the third and fourth quarter cut it to four. And they responded, and that’s what got them this far. That’s just what this game is about is maintaining your poise and just trying to win that next play.”
Los Angeles scored the next five points and the Suns never got closer to seven the rest of the way.
Johnson said that the Clippers’ aggressiveness got the best of his team.
“I think they’re just on the attack and had us on our heels a lot of the game,” Johnson said. “They were downhill and getting to the rim and scoring the ball on isos, and we just need to do a better job of stepping up in defending them.”
That last series-clinching victory can always be difficult, particularly against a Clippers team that has shown the resiliency to rally from series deficits in each round.
“It’s the realization that is not going to be easy, everybody knew it wasn’t going to be easy going in,” Johnson said. “But, also, we’ve got another opportunity in a couple of days. It’s tough and that’s what everybody said it would be and you can’t expect that team to just roll over. And they were out today, and they gave us a tough time. So we just have to bring it next game.”
While Johnson’s offense might get more of the attention, his defense has been solid in the series. On Monday, he had three steals, which matched his highest total for him in any NBA game, and he pulled down four rebounds.
For the playoffs, Johnson is shooting 50.7% from the floor and 45.1% from 3-point range. In the Clippers series, Johnson is 9 of 30 from 3-point range.
When Johnson ended up sprawled on the baseline on that fourth-quarter 3-point play, Herschel “Guy” Beahm IV, better known as YouTube sensation Dr. DisRespect, tried to help him up. Arena security was having none of that.