Russell Westbrook's heroics lift Clippers past Kevin Durant, Suns in Game 1

Even without Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers had all of the answers for Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.

The Clippers narrowly escaped the Footprint Center with a 115-110 win in Game 1 of their opening-round series with the Suns on Sunday night. The Clippers, after a tight battle through much of the contest, came up with a huge stop at the end. Thanks to some heroics from Russell Westbrook, they've taken the early jump in the series.

With the Clippers up by 3 in the final seconds, Westbrook blocked Devin Booker at the rim and then somehow managed to slap the ball into Booker’s leg before it landed out of bounds. That got L.A. the ball back, and eventually helped it ice the victory.

The angle from beneath the rim showed just how close Booker was to actually getting the shot off. Westbrook just barely got there.

Durant and the Suns got off to a bit of a slow start, and the Clippers took full advantage early. The Clippers held Phoenix to just 18 points in the first quarter, and they flew ahead to a big 16-point lead in the second quarter. It wasn’t until a huge run in the third that the Suns finally fought back in it.

Phoenix used a massive 15-0 stretch in the third quarter to take a 9-point lead, its first since the opening minutes of the game. That didn’t last long, as the Clippers tied things up 81-81 at the end of the third.

The Clippers jumped ahead by 4 points briefly early on in the fourth, but that was as big of a lead as they could get. Finally, though, Leonard took over. Leonard hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and then backed down Chris Paul before dishing to Eric Gordon for a third 3-pointer — which put them up by 6.

A Durant 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Paul, however, brought the Suns back within a single point at 109-108 with 68 seconds left.

Westbrook then drew a foul and got to the free-throw line with 17 seconds left after the Suns failed twice to grab a rebound. Westbrook hit both of them, which put the Clippers up 111-108 to set up one final shot for the Suns.

That’s when Westbrook came up with his stop, and eventually secured the win.

Durant nearly had a triple-double in his first playoff game with the Suns. He finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds in 45 minutes. Booker finished with 26 points after shooting 10-of-19 from the field, and Paul added 7 points with 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kevin Durant headshot
Kevin Durant
SF - PHO - #35
4/16/2023 v. LAC

Leonard dropped 38 points for the Clippers, and Gordon added 19 points after shooting 50% from the field. Westbrook finished just shy of a triple-double, too, with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists — though he shot just 3 of 19 from the field.

“It’s timing. It’s the will to win,” Westbrook said of his rebounding performance. “We had to make plays, understanding time, score and possession. At this position, humbly speaking, nobody [is] a better rebounder than me.”

George is expected to miss the entire first-round series due to a right knee injury. He missed the last nine games of the regular season for the Clippers while recovering, and isn’t ready to return. He averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 56 games this season.

Game 2 of the series is set for Tuesday night (10 p.m. ET, TNT) in Phoenix.