Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Tokyo Olympics The Article Core Values iPad Weather Story ideas Archive Puzzles Obits Newsletters
ADVERTISEMENT

Booker makes up for Paul's absence

by The Associated Press | June 21, 2021 at 2:02 a.m.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) and Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, left, pause on the court during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX -- Devin Booker's first exposure to playoff basketball continues to be a revelation.

Not necessarily for him, but for the rest of the NBA.

Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double and the Phoenix Suns downed the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

"I don't understand why everyone's acting surprised at this point," Suns forward Jae Crowder said about Booker's big day. "This is his first time on this stage but he's capable. He's more than capable. He're more than ready. He prepares like no other."

Suns' standout Chris Paul sat out because of covid-19 health and safety protocols. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

Tied at 93 to start the fourth, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and pulled ahead 105-95 on Cam Johnson's dunk with 8:08 remaining. The Clippers wouldn't go away, though, cutting a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds left.

But that's where the rally stopped for Los Angeles.

"I have no excuse," Clippers Coach Tyronn Lue said. "I thought we played hard and competed. A little credit -- they were making shots and we didn't. But I loved our fight. I loved what I saw."

Booker scored on a dunk on the next possession to seal Phoenix's eighth consecutive victory, getting a free lane to the basket on the blown defensive coverage. The sixth-year guard was a surprising omission from the All-NBA teams released a few days ago but he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

He wasn't worried about where this game ranks among his best performances.

"I'll let you guys do the rankings," Booker said. "I'm just going out there to win every game possible. I've been saying this since the start of the playoffs -- every next game is the biggest game."

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Booker continues to cement his superstar status and was productive and efficient in one of the best games of his career. He shot 15 of 29 from the floor, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

The third quarter featured a stellar scoring duel between Booker and L.A.'s Paul George, who finished with 34 points. Booker scored 18 points in the quarter, and George had 15, including a three-pointer that tied it at 93 heading to the fourth.

The Suns led 76-68 midway through the third but George scored eight consecutive points -- including six points on two long three-pointers -- to tie it up. It was the start of a 16-2 run that helped Los Angeles take an 84-78 lead.

Booker and the Suns responded quickly. Booker scored 12 points -- mostly on mid-range jumpers -- in the final 3:09 of the third to get Phoenix back on track. Then Phoenix rolled through the fourth quarter.

"We got to figure out how to counter, which we will, figure out another game plan," George said. "I think this was a good feel-out game to see adjustments. We have been great at adjusting."

Deandre Ayton had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Suns. Cameron Payne started for Paul and had 11 points and nine assists.

Reggie Jackson added 24 points for the Clippers.

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scores against Los Angeles Clippers forwards Nicolas Batum, right, and Marcus Morris Sr., back left, during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) scores against Los Angeles Clippers forwards Nicolas Batum, right, and Marcus Morris Sr., back left, during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, top left, grabs a rebound against the Los Angeles Clippers as Suns forward Cameron Johnson, center, and center Deandre Ayton, right, look on during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, top left, grabs a rebound against the Los Angeles Clippers as Suns forward Cameron Johnson, center, and center Deandre Ayton, right, look on during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, right, shoot over Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, left, during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, right, shoot over Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, left, during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) celebrates near the end of the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals as Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, right, looks on Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) celebrates near the end of the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals as Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, right, looks on Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, reacts as he is stopped in the lane by Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, reacts as he is stopped in the lane by Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder celebrates his three-point basket against the Los Angeles Clippers with fans during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder celebrates his three-point basket against the Los Angeles Clippers with fans during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges celebrates his dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix . (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges celebrates his dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix . (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, right, is fouled by Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, right, is fouled by Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker shouts in celebration in the closing seconds during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Clippers, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Clippers 120-114. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker shouts in celebration in the closing seconds during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Clippers, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Clippers 120-114. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Print Headline: Booker makes up for Paul's absence

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT