PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have some flaws and perhaps they still haven’t truly been tested but do they have a hellacious 1-2 punch.
Devin Booker and Kevin Durant hit the wounded LA Clippers with an unrelenting barrage of impact plays over the last 10 days, culminating with a narrow and thrilling 136-130 Game 5 victory Tuesday to close out the first-round series, 4-1.
When Booker wasn’t drilling jumpers/slashing in transition/firing bullet passes/blocking shots/getting steals, it was Durant contributing smooth pull-ups/foul-drawing drives/needed rebounds.
Booker capped off a brilliant two-way series with 47 points, matching his playoff career high, on a slick 19-of-27 shooting. Durant added 31 points and scored the Suns’ last six points in the final minute to seal the win.
The Clippers, playing without stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, collapsed a 20-point Suns lead down to just two with a 31-14 run in the fourth quarter but, as has been the story of their season, they didn’t have enough.
“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.”
The Booker/Durant apex came in a fearsome third quarter when they put up 38 combined points in a relentless transition attack as the Clippers went cold shooting and were just overwhelmed. Booker made 10 of 11 shots in the stretch, outscoring the Clippers 25-24 by himself. Durant made 4 of 6 as the Suns dropped 50 points in the quarter.
“It was spiritual,” 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.”
“When he’s going like that, we’re not calling any plays,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell, pressed into being the catalysts of the Clippers’ offense, missed 10 straight shots.
The Suns’ two stars combined for a whopping 328 points in the five games, becoming the first teammates since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2003 to each score at least 25 points in five straight games to start a postseason.
Booker and Durant also became the second duo in NBA history to each score 25 points in every game of a best-of-seven series, according to Elias Sports Bureau research; they joined Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, who did it for the Lakers in a four-game sweep of the Warriors in the 1968 Western Division Finals.
The Suns are now 12-1 when Booker and Durant play together, though they have benefitted from playing some teams without their stars, and that was certainly the case after Leonard went down with a knee injury after Game 2.
The Clippers got 58 bench points, including a career playoff-high 20 from Mason Plumlee, to give themselves a chance. Powell had 27 points and Westbrook added 14, but was just 3-of-18 shooting.
Chris Paul had 15 points and Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns.