The Suns have some flaws, and perhaps they still haven’t truly been tested, but do they ever have a hellacious one-two punch.
Devin Booker and Kevin Durant hit the wounded LA Clippers with an unrelenting barrage of impact plays over the past 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 or getting steals, it was Durant helping smooth pull-ups, foul-drawing drives and needed rebounds.
Booker capped off a brilliant two-way series, tying his playoff career high with 47 points on a slick 19-of-27 shooting outing with 10 assists. Durant added 31 points and scored the Suns’ last six points in the final minute to seal the victory.
“It was spiritual,” Durant said of his new teammate’s performance. “His impact and his presence just means a lot to us. That was incredible to see and to be a part of.”
Booker averaged 40 points on 62% shooting in the Suns’ four consecutive victories after the Clippers took Game 1, just the third player in history to do so along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1977) and Bernard King (1984), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Clippers, playing without stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, erased a 20-point Suns lead down to 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 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.
“I don’t scream too much in the games no more as I got older,” Durant said. “I felt the energy, and I know everybody in our crowd felt it. So we feed off his aggression.”
“When he’s going like that, we’re not calling any plays,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of Booker.
Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell, pressed into being the catalysts of the Clippers’ offense, missed 10 consecutive shots.
The Suns’ two stars combined for a whopping 328 points in the five matches, 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 the Elias Sports Bureau; 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 benefited from playing teams without their stars, which 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.