PHOENIX (UPI) —
Devin Booker recorded his first career triple-double as the Phoenix Suns overcame Chris Paul’s absence to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Arizona.
Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the Suns, who were without Paul because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Despite the absence of his backcourt mate, Booker became the fourth-youngest player in league history to record a 40-point triple-double in the playoffs at 24 years, 233 days old.
The Clippers, meanwhile, were missing star forward Kawhi Leonard, who missed his third consecutive game due to a sprained right knee.
Tied at 93 to start the fourth quarter, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and took a 105-95 lead after Cam Johnson’s dunk with 8:08 left in the game. The Clippers kept battling and cut their 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann sank a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining.
Booker got a free lane to the basket and threw down a thunderous dunk on the next possession to seal the Suns’ seventh straight postseason victory.
Deandre Ayton notched 20 points and nine rebounds for the Suns. Cameron Payne got the start in Paul’s place and had 11 points and nine assists.
Suns forward Mikal Bridges scored 14 points, and Jae Crowder tallied 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Johnson added 12 points and four boards off the bench.
Paul George led the Clippers with 34 points on 10-of-26 shooting from the field. Reggie Jackson had 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.
DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points in 13 minutes for the Clippers, who are in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. The Suns, who have never won an NBA title, haven’t advanced this far in the playoffs in more than a decade.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Reporting by Connor Grott
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