Perhaps one of the most important plays in Phoenix Suns' history, the "Valley Oop" as it was dubbed in the wee hours following the team's 104-103 Game 2 Western Conference finals win over the Los Angeles Clippers, was completed by a player who didn't entirely grasp what he had just done.
Deandre Ayton, the 7-foot, gregarious Bahamian, admitted that when he snatched Jae Crowder's inbounds pass from above the cylinder and slammed it through the rim with less than a second remaining, he thought he had pulled a fast one on the officials.
"The celebration and reaction was a little shaky because I wasn't too sure what I did," Ayton said of the game-winning play. "I wasn't too sure if it counted. I didn't want it to be a blooper or none of that. I just wanted to get to the next play, or the refs confirm what it is. I was just so anxious. I was really stressed."
The play was perfectly legal, since you cannot be called for goaltending on a live-ball inbounds pass, and it gave the Suns their ninth consecutive postseason win, putting the Clippers in an 0-2 hole heading back to L.A. The heroic dunk was just the latest in a series of impressive accomplishments during a breakout postseason for Ayton. So far in his first playoff run, Ayton has averaged 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds on incredible 72.6 percent field goal shooting.
The big man was absolutely brilliant in Game 2, putting up 24 points and 14 rebounds on 12-for-15 shooting, as the Clippers continued to try different tactics to slow him down. They started small in Game 1 -- with the same unit that had just undressed reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to close out the previous round -- and all 10 of Ayton's field goals came in the paint, while he punished them on the offensive boards.