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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 20: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against Terance Mann #14 and Marcus Morris Sr. #8 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter during game one of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 20, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo : Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
No Chris Paul, no problem. The Phoenix Suns bucked the absence of their star point guard, recording a 120-114 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday. Devin Booker starred for the Suns, who now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Devin Booker continued to impress in his first postseason appearance, leading the Suns to their first win in the Western Conference Finals since 2010. He notched the first triple-double of his career, registering 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists as he stepped up big time in the absence of Chris Paul, who sat out Game 1 because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Booker outduels George in the series opener
Booker was efficient in the series opener, shooting 15 of 29 from the field. He flourished against a Clippers side that was just 36 hours removed from an emotional series-clinching win against the Utah Jazz. He did most of his damage in the third quarter, which saw both sides go on huge runs.
The Suns built a 76-68 advantage midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers fought back quickly behind the hot shooting of Paul George, who scored eight consecutive points to tie the game. That was part of a 16-2 blast by the Clippers, who took an 84-78 advantage.
Booker responded, however, scoring 12 points in the final 3:09 of the third quarter to get the Suns back in the game. Booker and George finished the third period with 18 and 15 points, respectively.
Booker continued his fine play in the fourth quarter as the Suns went for the kill. They started the payoff period with a 12-2 run to open up a 105-95 lead. The Clippers made a furious charge in the dying minutes, however, slicing a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to just two points, with Terance Mann’s three-pointer with 22 seconds left making it 116-114.
Booker made sure there will be no collapse for the Suns, though, scoring a dunk on the next possession and making two late free throws to seal the win for Phoenix. It was an emotional performance by Booker, who was surprisingly not included in the All-NBA teams released a few days ago.
Providing support to Booker in the Game 1 win were Deandre Ayton and Cameron Payne. Ayton was unstoppable inside the paint, registering 20 points and nine rebounds. Payne excelled as a replacement starter for Paul, scoring 11 points and dishing out nine assists.
Injuries mounting for the Clips
All is not lost for the Clippers, though, who have been in this scenario before. They have trailed 0-2 in their previous two playoff series but managed to pull off the comeback wins. It certainly won’t be easy, though, with Kawhi Leonard’s status in this series still uncertain. The former Finals MVP missed his third consecutive playoff game on Sunday with a knee injury.
Adding to LA’s woes was the injury situation of Marcus Morris Sr. He didn’t start the second half due to knee pain and was pretty much ineffective, recording just six points and three rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
The onus then is on Paul George to carry the load for the injury-plagued Clippers. He was excellent in Game 1, finishing with 34 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
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