PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker unleashed a torrent of offense in the third quarter rarely seen in NBA playoff history, hitting shots from every corner of the gym.
The Phoenix Suns needed just about every one of them.
Booker scored 47 points, including 25 in a spectacular third quarter, to lead the Suns past the Los Angeles Clippers 136-130 on Tuesday night and win the Western Conference first-round playoff series in five games.
“It was spiritual,” Suns forward Kevin Durant said of watching Booker’s third quarter. “I don’t scream too much in games as I get older, but when he hit that 3 at the top of the key, I felt that energy and I know everyone in the crowd felt it. We feed off his aggression.”
The Clippers didn’t go quietly, nearly coming back from a 20-point deficit early in the fourth, hitting four straight 3s at one point to quickly close the gap.
Los Angeles had multiple chances to tie in the final three minutes, but could never convert. Durant made a layup to push Phoenix’s lead to 134-130 and then made two free throws to put the Suns up six with 31.3 seconds left.
“I think it’s a good lesson for us moving forward,” Booker said. “Don’t play with your food. Finish out as strong as you can. Keep playing all the way until the whistle blows.”
Durant finished with 31 points while Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Booker shot 19 of 27 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
Durant’s final free throws capped a wild back-and-forth second half that saw the Clippers take a 71-61 lead early in the third.
But the Suns — led by Booker’s stellar shot making — unleashed a powerful wave of offense, pouring in 50 points in the third quarter to take a 111-94 lead into the fourth. Booker made 10 of 11 shots in the rally, including three 3-pointers and a tomahawk fastbreak dunk.
“When he’s going like that, we’re not calling any plays,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
Said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue: “We couldn’t stop him. We had no answer for him. We tried to blitz him, we couldn’t blitz him.”
The flustered Clippers had no answer until it was too late. Norman Powell led Los Angeles with 27 points while Mason Plumlee scored 20 off the bench.
It was a tough night for Russell Westbrook, who scored 14 points on 3 of 18 shooting and had a costly turnover in the final minute, dishing a pass to Terance Mann, who wasn’t expecting the ball. Westbrook also missed a contested layup with 2:19 left that could have tied the game.
Westbrook said he was proud of the team’s effort. He added eight rebounds and eight assists.
“We stayed with our principles and kept fighting,” said the nine-time All-Star. “Kept competing. Didn’t give up on the next play and gave ourselves a chance.”
The Suns will play the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in the second round. Game 1 is Saturday in Denver.
The series took a turn last week when the Clippers announced Leonard had a sprained right knee. The two-time Finals MVP suffered the injury in Game 1 and played through it in Game 2, but his condition worsened.
He missed Games 3 and 4 and the Clippers lost both contests. They were already playing without eight-time All-Star Paul George, who also had a sprained right knee and last played on March 21.
But Los Angeles stayed competitive despite those absences and Tuesday night continued that trend.
“We just ran up against a really good opponent,” Lue said.
Booker became just the third player in the past 25 seasons to score at least 25 points in a quarter during a playoff game. The others were Damian Lillard (25 in 2019) and Allen Iverson (26 in 2001).
Suns: Backup guard Cam Payne played for the first time in the playoffs. He missed the first four games with a sore back. He played three minutes but didn’t score. … Hosted a 77th straight sellout, combining regular season and postseason games.
Clippers: Had a 26-16 rebounding advantage in the first half. … Backup guard Bones Hyland scored nine points in the first half.
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