It was a first half to forget for Phoenix fans, followed by a third-quarter we may never forget, as Devin Booker led the Suns past the Clippers 136-130 to advance to the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
On paper, it was a game the Suns should have won; with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George out for the Clippers and Phoenix fully healthy, a closeout was seemingly inevitable. However, a first half without any defense set Phoenix up for an uphill climb in the second half. Fortunately, D-Book was up to the challenge for Phoenix, and while it was maybe not the statement game and win we were all hoping for, there was a statement quarter we will long remember.
Good news and bad news in the first half for Phoenix
One of the positives for the Suns in the first half of game 5 was that Phoenix finally won the first quarter. In the previous four first quarters in this series, the Suns were outscored by 24 points, but on Tuesday evening, Phoenix managed to best Los Angeles over the first twelve minutes 32-30.
Unfortunately, after winning every second quarter thus far in the series at +23, the Suns were outscored by 11 and conceded more points – 40 – than in any quarter thus far in the playoffs. The 11 points were the second biggest margin by either team in a quarter in the series, trailing only the 12-point advantage the Clippers had after 12 minutes in game 1.
Having conceded 70 points in the half, Phoenix had work to do, and that is where D-Book stepped in and saved the day.
Booker was brilliant in the third quarter to carry the Suns to victory
The Suns and Clippers may have flipped the script winning opposite quarters in the first half; however, only one team had won the third quarter in the previous four games, and Devin B was going to ensure that trend continued.
Sensing the moment and leveraging the extended defense that the Clippers were playing, Booker dominated the ball and the game for twelve minutes, as the Suns scored 50 points and Booker set a new playoff high with 25 in the quarter.
Booker was hitting threes, getting to the line, and dunking with force as he went 10 of 11 in the quarter as the Suns went from down 10 to up by 18 points by the end of the period. Although the Clippers would outscore the Suns by 11 again in the fourth quarter, the 26 points shellacking Phoenix gave LA in the third was enough to win the day. Likewise, while Kevin Durant had 31 points and Deandre Ayton had 21 and 11 boards, it was a big quarter from Booker we will all remember, that and the Suns advancing.