Even without Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers had all the answers for Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
The Clippers narrowly escaped the footprint with a 115-110 win in Game 1 of their opening-round series with The Sun Sunday night. The Clippers, after a tight battle through most of the contest, came up with a big comeback in the end. Thanks to some heroics from Russell Westbrook, they made the early jump in the series.
Westbrook, with the Clippers up by three in the final seconds, blocked Devin Booker from the rim and then somehow managed to slam the ball into Booker’s leg before it landed out of bounds. This gave them the ball back, and eventually led them to a five-point victory.
The angle from the bottom of the rim showed how close Booker could get the shot. Westbrook barely got there.
Durant and the Suns got off to a slightly slow start, and the Clippers took full advantage early on. The Clippers held Phoenix’s lead to just 18 points in the first quarter, and took a 16-point lead before halftime. It wasn’t until a big run in the third that the Sun finally fought it back.
Phoenix used a 15-0 lead in a big run in the third quarter, which moved them to a nine-point lead, their first since the first minutes of the game. That didn’t last long, however, as the Clippers quickly tied things up again to finish third.
The Clippers jumped to a four-point lead briefly early in the fourth, but that was about as wide a lead as they could get. Finally, though, Leonard took over. Leonard hit a 3-pointer in a row, then pulled back off Chris Paul before heading to Eric Gordon for a third-pointer – which put them up at six.
However, a Durant 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Paul put the Suns back within one point with 68 seconds left in the game.
It was Westbrook who fouled and reached the free throw line with 17 seconds left after the Suns twice failed to stop. Westbrook hit both of them, putting the Clippers up by three and making one final shot for the Suns.
That’s when Westbrook stopped, and finally got the win.
Durant nearly hit a triple-double in his first playoff game with the Suns. He finished with 27 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds in 45 minutes. Booker finished with 26 points after shooting 10-of-19 from the field, and Paul added seven points along with 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Leonard lost 38 points for the Clippers and Gordon added 19 after shooting 50% from the field. Westbrook finished just shy of a triple-double as well, with nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists – although he only shot 3 of 19 from the field. George is expected to miss the entire first series with a right knee injury for the Clippers. George missed the last nine games of the regular season for the Clippers to recover, not ready to return. He averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 56 games this season.
The second game of the series is set on a Tuesday night in Phoenix.
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