Your Phoenix Suns closed out a playoff series on their home court for the first time since 2007, by beating the Los Angeles Clippers to win the series 4-1. In the interim, they’d won 6 playoff series, but all closed out on the road.
This one wasn’t easy. Their 20-point second half lead got cut to two — 130-128 — with more than two minutes to play as the Suns just could not get stops and had lost their edge on offense. They didn’t even get a shot for Kevin Durant from the 10 minute mark to the 1-minute mark and that was on a rare runout off a steal.
But hey a win is a win. And the Suns are moving on to the second round.
Suns win, 136-130.
Devin Booker was incredible. Devin Freaking Booker had 25 points in the third quarter alone as the Suns stomped the Clippers 50-24 to open the second half and put this clinching game away. He finished with 47 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds.
Kevin Durant had 31 relatively quiet points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Chris Paul had 15 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
The Suns will next play the Denver Nuggets in round two, starting Saturday. The Nuggets closed out their own first round series, 4-1, an hour earlier.
The Suns appeared to be playing hard in this game, especially with Devin Booker scoring 8 of the Suns first 10 points on the way to the Suns taking a 14-11 lead. But the Clippers had no intention of going away, and kept it close the entire quarter.
Suns led 32-30 after one quarter. Booker had 12 points for the Suns, and Norman Powell had 11 for the Clippers.
As I said, the Clippers would not go away. In the second quarter, the Clippers actually took a 45-40 lead on a Bones Hyland three pointer, their 4th of the game in 13 attempts. “It should be this hard,” was heard on press row from former Bright Side illuminatus Brendon Kleen.
The Clippers later took a 54-48 lead no a Hyland finish in the paint, and the Suns were stuck in ‘miss’ mode. The Clippers were up to 9 offensive rebounds in the half, against only 13 Suns defensive rebounds. Some of it is weird bounces, and some of it is all-out effort by the Clippers. They’re playing their butts off.
Cam Payne entered the game for the first time this series with just over four and a half minutes left, Suns down 54-50.
I’ll just say the calls and bounces are really going the Clippers way in this first half. Like, a LOT is going their way. A LOT. They’re making it happen with their effort, for sure. But a 40-point second quarter has to have so much go right for a group without a star in it.
Clippers lead 70-61 at halftime after finishing the quarter on a 12-4 run. Eight different Clippers players have 6+ points, with Norman Powell leading the way with 16. Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac have 10 each.
That’s the Suns biggest deficit of the series at halftime, after trending in the right direction all series (G1: -5, G2: tied, G3: +3, G4: -9).
For the Suns, Devin Booker has 16 points and 6 assists (but only 6 in the last 16 minutes he’s played). Kevin Durant has 12 points on 11 shots. Deandre Ayton was the only guy who looked dialed in, with 18 points on 8-11 shooting and 4 rebounds.
The big difference in the half: Clippers +10 on rebounds (+8 on offensive rebounds), +3 on made threes, +4 on made free throws. Suns have been beating the Clips on rebounds and free throws all series. Gotta turn that around.
Welp, the first play of the second half: Russell Westbrook gets the Clippers 11th offensive rebound after Ayton forced a Plumlee postup miss.
Still, the Suns went on a 9-1 run to start the half and pull back to within 2, at 71-69. But their fourth team foul committed in four Clippers possessions — all attacking the rim — got the Suns into early foul trouble and helped the Clippers keep the lead. The Clippers had yet to commit a foul, while the Suns had 4 with 9:18 left in the quarter. Ugh.
That little Suns run was short-lived, and the Clippers continued attacking the basket to take a 79-71 lead. They are up to 22 free throw attempts barely 4 minutes into the second half.
Things got so bad, the crowd went wild when the Suns got three straight stops (two clean defensive rebounds and a steal) and scored on the other end to pull back to within one, 79-78, and force a Clippers timeout at 7:01 left in the 3rd.
The teams started trading buckets at that point, the lead changing on every possession. That all changed when Devin Booker made back to back threes to put the Suns up 94-86 with 3:44 left in the quarter. Crowd = PANDEMONIUM. (still a lot of time left, folks!)
On the next play, after Russell Westbrook got a three pointer blocked (he’s now 2-14 from the field), he absolutely imploded. In transition, as the Suns were about to go up 10, he swiped recklessly at a Bismack Biyombo dunk attempt and caught all head and shoulder. Westbrook was assessed a Flagrant 1, but most of us felt it should be an ejection.
This quarter was all about DEVIN ARMANI BOOKER. Holy crap. He had 25 points in the third quarter alone, finishing the quarter with 41 on 17 of 23 shooting. ON FIRE.
The Suns as a team outscored the Clippers 50-24 in the third to take a 111-94 lead. FIFTY!!! We’ve been waiting for a statement game. That was at least a statement quarter.
Still, the lead was only 17 because the Suns were down 9 points to start the quarter. Mason Plumlee had a good start to the 4th, getting an offensive rebound for a Batum three, and then scoring 5 quick points to pull the Clippers back to 14 down.
Plumlee kept answering the Suns scores — LOL — until Bismack Biyombo finally got pulled with 5 fouls. He was just getting worked out there.
The Clippers got the Suns lead down to 10 with a 19-12 start to the fourth, and then Booker made a three to light up the crowd again, followed by his 10th assist to put the Suns back up 15. Just. like. that.
The Clippers STILL wouldn’t go away, though, and the Clippers drained FOUR straight threes to pull back to a 3-point game with over three minutes to play. SERIOUSLY?!!!?