Leonard, Clippers depth enough to steal Game 1 on road from Suns
The Phoenix Suns were the betting favorite to win the Western Conference based largely on the fact that Kevin Durant can be as good as any basketball player walking the face of the Earth when he is on his game.
So can Kawhi Leonard. Sometimes people forget that while making him the poster child for load management.
Leonard reminded them with a stellar 38-point outing in Game 1. Combine that with the Clippers winning the bench points by 24, executing their defensive game plan, and Russell Westbrook making winning defensive plays (yes, you read that right) the Clippers took Game 1 in Phoenix 115-110.
Los Angeles now leads the series 1-0, with Game 2 Tuesday in Phoenix.
Kevin Durant had 27 points (although he took just one shot in the final six minutes) and Devin Booker 26 for the Suns (Book was 0-of-3 from beyond the arc), but the questions about Phoenix were never the top-end talent. That’s what made them the betting favorite. The concern was depth, which was on display in Game 1 with the Suns’ bench scoring 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
By contrast, the Clippers got 14 points alone from Norman Powell and 34 bench points overall.
The Clipper defense held the Suns to a 108.9 offensive rating, 9.1 points below their season average. The Clippers forced the Suns more into the midrange with their shots, and while Durant/Booker/Chris Paul are comfortable shooting there, the Clippers were happy to trade mid-range twos for 3-pointers all night.
The Clippers also trapped Durant late in the game and forced someone else o the roster to beat them. Nobody could.
Then there was Russell Westbrook, who shot a painful 3-of-19 from the field, but had 10 rebounds, eight assists, and the defensive play of the game late against Booker.
“My whole career, I pride myself every season on doing everything,” Westbrook said. “Whatever is needed of me to win the game, I’ll do it.”
The Clippers are going to need more nights like this with Paul George out for the series (sprained knee). The question has never been the highs for them, but rather can they sustain it?
The Suns need to get Kevin Durant some help in Game 2 or they could find themselves in a hole they cannot climb out of.