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 overcame Chris Paul’s absence to defeat 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.”
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 left. 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 3-pointer with 22 seconds left.
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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 straight triumph, 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.
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 field, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
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