Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook lead Clippers by Suns in Recreation 1
PHOENIX — Kawhi Leonard had an amazing capturing night time whereas Russell Westbrook had a horrible one.
Each gamers nonetheless had a big impact for the Los Angeles Clippers of their 115-110 win over the Phoenix Suns within the groups’ Western Convention playoff sequence opener on Sunday.
Leonard poured in 38 factors, together with two late 3-pointers, whereas Westbrook was a menace in every single place besides the scoring column. The veteran guard shot simply 3 of 19 from the sector, however completed with 9 factors, 10 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals.
“My entire profession, I satisfaction myself each season on doing every thing,” Westbrook mentioned. “No matter is required of me to win the sport, I’ll do it.”
That’s precisely what occurred within the last 30 seconds. Westbrook made a pair of free throws with 17.7 seconds left for a three-point lead, then blocked Devin Booker’s layup try on the different finish and swatted the ball off Booker to present the Clippers the ball with 10.1 seconds remaining.
Eric Gordon added 19 factors and hit a late 3 that stored the Clippers forward.
Kevin Durant scored 27 factors for the Suns, who misplaced for the primary time with him on the ground. Phoenix acquired the two-time NBA Finals MVP from Brooklyn in February, and accidents restricted him to eight video games — all Suns wins.
Devin Booker added 26 factors for Phoenix, which can attempt to keep away from falling right into a 2-0 gap at residence on Tuesday.
The Suns trailed 109-103 with 1:33 remaining however scored the following 5 factors. The Clippers grabbed a number of offensive rebounds on the following possession earlier than Westbrook made his vital free throws.
“Making profitable performs, getting deflections on balls, offensive rebounding, getting us into our units — that’s playoff basketball,” Leonard mentioned. “You may not have the most effective night time capturing, however you’ve received to impression the sport some kind of method and he did that tonight.”
Los Angeles led for a lot of the sport till halfway by way of the third quarter. Torrey Craig made back-to-back buckets, together with one on a robust fast-break dunk, to push Phoenix forward 70-68, a part of a 15-0 run that concluded with a 77-68 Suns lead.
The Clippers, led by Leonard’s 12 factors within the third, recovered to tie the sport at 81-all heading into the fourth.
“They’re going to make a run at residence, we understood that,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue mentioned. “We constructed a lead, they made a run, and now we’ve received to maintain our composure and be able to struggle again. I assumed everybody who performed tonight was nice.”
Leonard — a two-time Finals MVP enjoying his first playoff sport since June 14, 2021 — did a lot of his injury from the mid-range, however moved behind the 3-point arc within the sport’s late moments. He hit a 3 with 2:36 left and one other on the 2-minute mark, ending 13 of 24 capturing from the sector.
The Clippers have been lacking one among their greatest gamers in eight-time All-Star Paul George. He sprained his proper knee final month and it’s unclear if he’ll be capable to play on this sequence.
Gordon scored 12 factors because the Clippers jumped to a 30-18 lead after one quarter. The Suns shot simply 31.8% from the sector within the first quarter and Durant was held scoreless.
“We undoubtedly wish to have higher begins however generally that occurs,” Durant mentioned. “It’s all about the way you bounce again from it.”
Durant missed his first 5 pictures from the sector earlier than lastly connecting on a mid-range jumper early within the second quarter. That appeared to shake the nerves and the 34-year-old poured in 17 factors earlier than the break, serving to lower the Clippers’ result in 59-54.
The Suns had their six-game profitable streak in playoff Recreation 1s snapped.
“We perceive it isn’t going to be simple,” Booker mentioned. “It will get more durable from right here. Pondering again to my first (playoffs), each loss is the worst factor ever and each win you’re going to win the remainder of them. That’s simply how the playoffs go.”