On Thursday night, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 129-124 to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference playoff series. Devin Booker scored 45 points, Kevin Durant added 26, and the Suns won despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard from the Clippers lineup.
The same damaged right knee that has kept teammate star Paul George out of action since March 21 caused Leonard to miss the game and forced him to sit this one out. Leonard had an injury during Game 1 but continued to play through it throughout Game 2. After that, though, his condition did not improve.
The Clippers were led by Norman Powell, who scored a career-high 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting to lead the team in scoring. Russell Westbrook contributed 30 points and 11 assists to the game’s final tally.
Saturday marks the beginning of Game 4 in Los Angeles.
Booker finished the game with a shooting percentage of 18 for 29, seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocks while playing the most minutes (44). In Game 2, he had a total of 38 points.
The Clippers kept it close throughout the first half when no team was led by more than six points, even though Kawhi Leonard was watching on the sideline.
Westbrook’s two free throws with 1:44 left gave the Clippers a chance to get within three points of the Thunder. Powell launched a 3-pointer, was fouled, and sank both free throws to bring the score for the Clippers back to 125-120 after the Suns had gone on a 6-0 run.
The Clippers’ offense suffered greatly due to the absence of Kawhi Leonard, despite the valiant efforts of former UCLA players Powell and Westbrook. He scored 38 points in the victory against Phoenix in Game 1 and 31 points in the defeat in Game 2.
In the third quarter, Booker drove the Suns away from their competition. When the fourth quarter began, he contributed eight points to Phoenix’s 17-8 run, giving them their first lead of more than ten points in the game, 71-59.
When Westbrook scored seven consecutive points for the Clippers, their lead was reduced to 71-66. The Suns responded with eight straight points, capped off by a spectacular one-handed dunk by Durant, to take the information 79-66. They had a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Clippers could not depend on Kawhi Leonard, so they turned to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook made his presence felt right from the opening tip, helping to spark a 6-0 run to start the game.
The Suns responded with a run of 12 unanswered points, but the Clippers came back with a run of 14 unanswered points that gave them the lead at 20-14.
As Durant, Chris Paul, and Booker sank successive 3-pointers, the Suns went up by eight points in the second quarter, their highest lead of the first half. At that time, the Clippers led by one point.
Powell scored eight consecutive baskets to help the Clippers cut their deficit to one point at halftime, 54-51.
Booker scored 40 or more points for the seventh time in his playoff career for the Suns Toward the end of the game, Paul had 11 points and seven assists.
The Clippers bench outscored the Suns’ bench by a score of 37-18, with Bones Hyland leading the way with 20 points. This season, they had a record of 3-10 without Leonard and George in the starting lineup. Just Nicolas Batum from the starting lineup did not score a point.