National Basketball Association
Phoenix 120, L.A. Clippers 114
When: 3:30 PM ET, Sunday, June 20, 2021
Where: Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
#46 Ben Taylor, #25 Tony Brothers, #16 David Guthrie
Devin Booker posted his first career triple-double Sunday afternoon, when he scored 40 points and collected 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Phoenix Suns outlasted the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, 120-114, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Booker scored 16 consecutive points for the Suns in the third quarter and 29 in the second half for second-seeded Phoenix, which was without All-Star point guard Chris Paul (health and safety protocols).
"Just doing anything in my power to get a win," Booker told ESPN after the victory. "We have a really good collective group, we rely on each other."
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix. Considering the Clippers dropped the first two games in each of their first two series this postseason, Booker said the series is far from over.
"The game's never over with them," Booker said. "We've seen their past games and we know what they're capable of, so we've got to be locked in all 48 minutes [in Game 2]."
Making the Suns' victory more impressive was doing so in their first playoff game this spring without their floor leader Paul. Even without their starting point guard, the Suns tallied a playoff high 31 assists in Game 1.
"The guys had him on FaceTime in the locker room [after the win]," Williams said of Paul, who remains day-to-day. "We do that whenever someone's not around, we want to make sure they're a part of the locker room and everything that we do. He was excited for sure."
Paul George scored 34 points and dueled with Booker throughout the second half for the Clippers, who played the first conference finals game in franchise history.
"I like the way Devin did it, he didn't inject himself into the game, he just did it out of what we do," Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Booker's duel with George. "I think the poise of our team was important in that moment. When a guy's making shots like that, it's easy to become deflated."
"I think this was a good feel-out game," George said afterward. "We've been great at adjustments [during this postseason]. We've been great at playing better as the series goes on.
"That was a quick swing-around, coming from a tough Game 6 [against Utah] to come into this one. No excuses. We have to be better, obviously, but we'll expect to make the adjustments we need to make for Game 2."
Deandre Ayton scored 20 points for Phoenix with nine rebounds while Mikal Bridges (14 points), Jae Crowder (13 points), Cameron Johnson (12 points) and Cameron Payne (11 points, nine assists) also got into double digits.
Reggie Jackson had 24 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points off the bench for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard missed his third straight game with a right knee injury.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, during which there were 18 lead changes and eight ties, before George (16 points) and Booker (18 points) put on a show in the third quarter, when they combined to score almost half the combined points generated by both teams.
The Suns took their first eight-point lead at 76-68 on a pair of free throws by Booker with 7:13 left. George then scored eight straight points to tie the score before Booker drained a turnaround jumper to put Phoenix up 78-76. But Jackson sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Ivica Zubac to complete the 16-2 run that gave the Clippers an 84-78 lead.
Booker scored five straight points and George answered with a 3-pointer. After Zubac hit a free throw, Booker collected seven unanswered points to put the Suns ahead 90-88. George sank two free throws to tie the score again, after which Torrey Craig and George traded 3-pointers to end the quarter.
The teams swapped baskets to open the fourth before the Suns mounted a 10-0 run in which Booker had five points and Johnson had the dunk that gave Phoenix its biggest lead at 105-95.
The Suns maintained a multi-possession lead and seemed on their way to a routine victory when Bridges drained a 3-pointer to extend the Suns' lead to 116-106 with 1:59 left. But Rajon Rondo scored five straight points before Terence Mann's 3-pointer -- the third 3-point attempt of the possession for the Clippers -- cut the lead to 116-114 with 22 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Booker drove the lane for a dunk and Los Angeles missed a pair of shots on its next possession.
"He's been waiting for the moments for a long time," said Williams about Booker. "But I just think it's who he is. He and I have had a lot of conversations about this kind of basketball and he's worked his tail off.
"But at the same time, he would be the first one to tell you it's one game and we have a lot of work to do against a really good team."
--Field Level Media
Top Game Performances
Paul George 34
Devin Booker 40
Rajon Rondo 7
Devin Booker 11
Nicolas Batum 10
Devin Booker 13
Paul George 7
||Free Throws Made
Devin Booker 7
Paul George 2
Cameron Johnson 2
Nicolas Batum 1
Mikal Bridges 2
Team Stats Summary
Phoenix will play their next game at home against L.A. Clippers. The Suns have a W/L % of .680 after a win and .773 after a loss.
L.A. Clippers will play their next game on the road against Phoenix. The Clippers have a W/L % of .617 after a win and .720 after a loss.