Valley-Oop pass: Suns inbounder Jae Crowder ‘just reacted’

Jun 24, 2021, 1:01 PM
Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) surveys the court as LA Clippers center DeMarcus Cousins (15)...
Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) surveys the court as LA Clippers center DeMarcus Cousins (15) covers him before completing a successful, game winning alley-oop to Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) with 0.9 seconds remaining in Game two of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Who gets the most credit for the Phoenix Suns Game 2 game-winner against the Los Angeles Clippers?

Deandre Ayton flew above the rim to slam the ball through for a go-ahead basket with just 0.7 seconds left on the game clock on Tuesday. It capped a 24-point effort for the big man in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

But he got help.

Suns teammate Devin Booker, bloodied nose and all, bodied big man Ivica Zubac on a screen to free up Ayton.

Then there was Jae Crowder, who with 7-footer DeMarcus Cousins flashing his wingspan in front of to the side of Crowder didn’t do much to disrupt a perfect lob pass to Ayton.

For what it’s worth, Ayton called the pass Crowder’s game-winner because of the difficulty level.

“Obviously, you’re just not focusing on what can go wrong,” Crowder said before Game 3. “You’re focusing on how to make the pass right. It’s happening so fast. You don’t have much time to think, you just react. I just reacted.

“Obviously when you throw a lob, you just try to throw it in the area and that’s what I tried to do, is throw it as close to the rim as possible and give D.A. a chance to tip it in. That what my mindset was, get close to the rim as possible once … Book got a screen on D.A.’s man.”

Crowder said the setup by coach Monty Williams had other options if Ayton wasn’t clear to take off.

But Crowder saw mid-play that Booker’s screen on Zubac worked.

Replays — granted ones from a different angle than Crowder’s — showed the lob pass getting pretty close to the backboard considering he was inbounding from the baseline.

In the moment, Crowder said he’d not considered that possibility that his pass might skim the backboard.

“Nope. Happened so fast, man, you don’t even get to calculate like how far, how close you are to the backboard,” the Suns forward said. “Obviously, my mindset wasn’t even focused on the backboard. I’m really looking at the rim and, like, the space.

“Now I saw that angle, I was like, damn, very close, inches away from the backboard, so I would have felt really bad. We wouldn’t be having this conversation about this if I hit off the side of the backboard.”

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