June 15, 2024

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Clippers stun Suns in Game 1: Kawhi Leonard shines, Russell Westbrook runs wild in win

The Clippers took Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Suns with a 115-110 win over Phoenix at the Footprint Center on Sunday. Here’s what you should know:

  • Los Angeles forward Kawhi Leonard led his team with 38 points, five rebounds and five assists while hitting nine of his 10 free throw attempts.
  • Russell Westbrook shot 3 of 19 from the floor, scoring nine points, but had eight assists, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks. He hit the winning run with two free throws followed by a key defensive play in the final seconds.
  • Kevin Durant scored 27 points, made 11 assists and nine rebounds, while Devin Booker contributed 26 points.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

Westbrook Picnic Rating

Westbrook did not have a good shooting game. In fact, it was his worst as a Clipper, making only 3 of 19 shots from the field, including only one of six 3-putts. Poor shooting hurt the Clippers during a Phoenix 25-point turnaround that depleted the Clippers’ 16-point lead and put the Suns up by nine in the third quarter.

But Westbrook made all the other plays in a touching fourth quarter, especially in the final three minutes of the game as the Clippers clung to a 100-99 lead. In that time, Westbrook had 2 tackles, 2 assists, 2 clutch free throws, and a block block off a quick Booker drive with the Clippers ahead by 3 points and no team time outs left.

Overall, the Clippers edged the Suns by three points in the fourth quarter from Westbrook, in a game that was tied entering the fourth quarter. Remarkably, Westbrook’s teams are now 2-0 when he shoots exactly 3 of 19 from the field, with the other win coming in Game 4 with the Washington Wizards in the 2021 quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Westbrook will need to get better at hitting the ball, but his influence beyond shot-making helped the Clippers steal the home court advantage. – Murray

What else worked in Los Angeles?

The Clippers started Game 1 defensively against the Suns, as Phoenix scored 18 points on 21 shots. Westbrook blocked a Durant shot as part of an opening quarter effort that kept Durant scoreless on four attempts, while Booker had an effective opening quarter (six points on 3-of-8 shooting). Eric Gordon took on Durant’s job with confidence while leading all scorers with 12 first-quarter points on 5-of-6 shooting.

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Leonard increased his scoring each quarter, totaling a higher 38 points on 13-of-24 shooting. But Leonard’s scoring increase was almost irrelevant after Durant and Booker offloaded a total of 27 points in the second quarter, then Torey Craig scored 11 of his 22 points. In the third quarter – taking advantage of Durant turning the Clippers into a pass.

The Clippers bench saved this game, as Norman Powell led the way with 14 points to edge the entire Phoenix bench 14-10, while Terrence Mann, Bones Hyland, and Mason Plumlee added another 20 points. Leonard’s 13 points in the final quarter were enough to hold Durant 10 points in the final quarter, and although the Suns had more star power on Durant’s side, Leonard had more assists.

The Clippers’ main stats were second chance points and offensive tackles. The Clippers had a 15-6 advantage on offensive glass, negating the fact that the Suns won the turnover battle 14-10, while outscoring the Suns 12-7 on second chance points. This second chance points difference matches the last margin of the game. – Murray

What went wrong with Phoenix

Fatal Suns 16 down. They set themselves to win. They couldn’t get defensive rebounds when they needed one. Down 109-108 with a minute left in the game, the Suns forced three missed shots – failing to grab the rebound each time. That sequence ended with two free throws by Westbrook that gave the Clippers the cushion they needed to steal Game 1.

Some of it was just urgency. Westbrook shot 3 of 19 from the field but was the most important player on the ground in the fourth quarter. He grabbed five rebounds in the last quarter alone. Phoenix couldn’t match his energy. – Haller

Sun depth is a constant concern

With 4:42 left in the third quarter, Torey Craig scored 3 to give the Suns the biggest lead, 77-68. After a mostly uneventful first half, a sold-out crowd emerged at the imprint center. Phoenix had momentum – and the sun has restored everything.

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Among the concerns after Durant’s trade was the lack of depth. Here it is before. With Phoenix playing mostly reserves, the Clippers outscored the Suns 13-4 going into the rest of the quarter to close out the contest at 81-81 entering the fourth. A huge opportunity to take over the Suns slipped away. Overall, the Los Angeles seat edged out the Phoenix seat 34-10. No Phoenix reserve has scored more than four points, an issue that must be addressed before Game 2 on Tuesday. – Haller

what are they saying

“Humblely speaking, in this position, no one is better at rebounding than I am,” Westbrook said after the win.

Highlight of the game

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(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)