Booker has 45 points, Suns top Leonard-less Clippers 129-124
Published 1:37 am Friday, April 21, 2023
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Devin Booker scored 45 points, Kevin Durant added 26 and the Phoenix Suns beat the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers 129-124 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference playoff series.
Leonard sat out because of a sprained right knee, the same injury that has sidelined fellow star Paul George since March 21. Leonard was hurt in Game 1, and played through it in Game 2, but afterward his condition didn’t improve.
Norman Powell led the Clippers, scoring a career playoff-high 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting. Russell Westbrook added 30 points and 11 assists.
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Game 4 is Saturday in Los Angeles.
Booker shot 18 for 29 and had seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks while playing a game-high 44 minutes. He scored 38 points in Game 2.
With Leonard watching from the bench, the Clippers kept it close through the first half, when neither team led by more than six.
The Clippers got within three on two free throws by Westbrook with 1:44 remaining. After a 6-0 run by the Suns, Powell hit a 3-pointer, got fouled and made the free throw to pull the Clippers to 125-120.
Despite the heroics of former UCLA stars Powell and Westbrook, the Clippers sorely missed Leonard’s offense. He had 38 points in a Game 1 win at Phoenix and 31 in a loss in Game 2.
The Suns pulled away in the third behind Booker. He scored eight points in a 17-8 run to open the period and give Phoenix its first double-digit lead of the game, 71-59.
Westbrook scored seven in a row to cut the Clippers’ deficit to 71-66. The Suns answered with eight straight, capped by Durant’s vicious one-handed slam, to lead 79-66. They were ahead by seven going into the fourth.
Without Leonard, the Clippers counted on Westbrook and he made his presence known from the opening tip, keying a 6-0 run to start the game.
The Suns answered with 12 straight points before the Clippers answered with a 14-2 spurt that gave them a 20-14 lead.
The Clippers led by one when Durant, Chris Paul and Booker hit consecutive 3-pointers to go up by eight in the second, Phoenix’s largest lead of the half.
Powell ran off eight straight points to send the Clippers into halftime trailing 54-51.
Suns: Booker had his fifth career 40-plus-point postseason game. … Paul finished with 11 points and seven assists.
Clippers: Their reserves outscored the Suns’ bench, 37-18, with Bones Hyland scoring 20 points. … Fell to 3-10 this season without Leonard and George in the lineup. … Nicolas Batum was the only starter who didn’t score.