Devin Booker outduels Paul George as Suns take 1-0 lead over Clippers

·3 min read

With Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard sidelined, Devin Booker and Paul George took center stage on Sunday.

The pair of All-Stars delivered, putting on a show as Booker's Suns prevailed for a 120-114 win and a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. In a game that was tight from the opening tip, Phoenix pulled away midway through the fourth quarter and held off a late Los Angeles rally to secure its first conference finals win since 2010.

Devin Booker delivers with first career triple-double

The Suns showed few signs of rust from a six-day layoff after completing a sweep of the Denver Nuggets on June 13. A Phoenix offense that normally looks to Paul as its floor general thrived as Booker ran the show en route to his first career triple-double and the first by a Suns player in the playoffs since Steve Nash in 2005. He finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in the latest remarkable chapter of his debut playoff run.

Devin Booker drives to the basket against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Devin Booker posted a career effort on Sunday with Chris Paul sidelined. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Clippers' rally comes up short this time

The Clippers, who secured their spot in the conference finals with a rally from a 25-point deficit to defeat the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the conference semifinals on Friday, almost completed another comeback behind a big effort from George. His 34 points, five assists and four rebounds weren't enough as Phoenix held on in front of a raucous home crowd.

Neither team built a significant advantage in a game that saw the first quarter tied at 21-21 and remained deadlocked through three quarters at 93-93. But a 10-0 Suns run early in the fourth gave Phoenix the first double-digit lead of the game at 105-95. 

The Clippers answered with their own late run, punctuated by a 3-pointer from Game 6 hero Terance Mann to cut their deficit to 116-114 with 22 seconds remaining. But Booker scored the game's final four points with a dunk and a pair of free throws to ice the win. 

Suns offense thrives despite Chris Paul's absence

The Suns were far from a one-man show on Sunday as six players scored in double figures. Deandre Ayton, who like Booker has shone in his playoff debut, maintained his pace with 20 points and nine rebounds on a 10-of-14 effort from the field. The Suns were red-hot from the floor, hitting 55.1% of their field goals while connecting on 13-of-22 (40.6%) 3-point attempts. Leonard's defensive presence for the Clippers was sorely missed. 

The Clippers, meanwhile, shot 45.5% from the field and hit 20-of-47 (42.6%) of their 3-point attempts in an effort that would normally get the job done. It just didn't match Phoenix's scorching pace. 

The series remains in Phoenix for Game 2 on Tuesday. Leonard hasn't been officially ruled out with his lingering knee injury, but he didn't travel with the team for Game 1. Paul missed Sunday's game in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. His status for Game 2 is unclear. 

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