Devin Booker posted his first career triple-double Sunday afternoon, when he scored 40 points and collected 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the host Phoenix Suns outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers, 120-114, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Booker scored 16 consecutive points for the Suns in the third quarter and 29 in the second half for second-seeded Phoenix, which was without All-Star point guard Chris Paul (health and safety protocols). Deandre Ayton scored 20 points with nine rebounds while Mikal Bridges (14 points), Jae Crowder (13 points), Cameron Johnson (12 points) and Cameron Payne (11 points, nine assists) also got into double digits.
Paul George scored 34 points and dueled with Booker throughout the second half for the Clippers, who played the first conference finals game in franchise history. Reggie Jackson had 24 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points off the bench.
Kawhi Leonard missed his third straight game with a right knee injury.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, during which there were 18 lead changes and eight ties, before George (16 points) and Booker (18 points) put on a show in the third quarter, when they combined to score almost half the combined points generated by both teams.
The Suns took their first eight-point lead at 76-68 on a pair of free throws by Booker with 7:13 left. George then scored eight straight points to tie the score before Booker drained a turnaround jumper to put Phoenix up 78-76. But Jackson sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Ivica Zubac to complete the 16-2 run that gave the Clippers an 84-78 lead.
Booker scored five straight points and George answered with a 3-pointer. After Zubac hit a free throw, Booker collected seven unanswered points to put the Suns ahead 90-88. George sank two free throws to tie the score again, after which Torrey Craig and George traded 3-pointers to end the quarter.
The teams swapped baskets to open the fourth before the Suns mounted a 10-0 run in which Booker had five points and Johnson had the dunk that gave Phoenix its biggest lead at 105-95.
The Suns maintained a multi-possession lead and seemed on their way to a routine victory when Bridges drained a 3-pointer to extend the Suns' lead to 116-106 with 1:59 left. But Rajon Rondo scored five straight points before Terence Mann's 3-pointer -- the third 3-point attempt of the possession for the Clippers -- cut the lead to 116-114.
Following a timeout, Booker drove the lane for a dunk and Los Angeles missed a pair of shots on its next possession.