LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Devin Booker delivered a 40-point triple double as the Phoenix Suns shook off some playoff rust to beat the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, 120-114, in the opening game of the Western Conference finals.
Booker also had 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple double as the Suns won on Sunday despite the absence of all-star guard Chris Paul, who has been placed in the NBA’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
“I’m just going out there to win every game possible” said Booker. ”I’ve been saying this since the start of the playoffs – every next game is the biggest game.”
Suns’ Jae Crowder said it was fitting that Booker stole the show in front of the crowd of 16,583 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
“I expect it. I know the type of player he is,” Crowder said.
Game two is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix.
This is an unexpected NBA final four matchup between two franchises trying to cap their storybook seasons by winning their first NBA titles. The Clippers have never been to the Conference finals before and the Suns last made it in 2010.
This was the Suns’ first game since last Sunday when they completed a four game sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the second round.
It is their ninth trip to the Conference finals as they seek their first title in the 53-year history.
Deandre Ayton scored 20 points with nine rebounds while Mikal Bridges (14 points), Jae Crowder (13 points) and Cameron Johnson (12 points) scored in double digits for the Suns.
Both teams were missing star players Sunday as Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard suffered a knee injury in game four of the second round against the Jazz.
Leonard did not join the Clippers on the trip to Phoenix. Coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn’t sure of his availability.
The Clippers beat the Jazz in epic fashion, ending one of the league’s most infamous droughts by advancing to the conference finals for the first time in their 51-year history.
Paul George scored 34 points, Reggie Jackson had 24 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points off the bench in the loss for the Clippers.
“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.”