Kevin Durant is the shiny new toy for the Phoenix Suns. Devin Booker is still the team’s heart and soul.
Booker — the three-time All-Star who has spent all eight of his NBA seasons in Phoenix — scored 38 points, Durant added 25 and the Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 123-109 on Tuesday night in Game 2 to tie the Western Conference first-round series.
“He’s an all-around player,” Durant said about Booker. “He can do everything at an elite level on a basketball court.”
The Suns needed a gritty effort after a disappointing loss in Game 1. Their shots weren’t falling for much of the first half and they fell into a 13-point hole midway through the second quarter.
But led by Booker, they never panicked.
The 26-year-old drilled a 3 just before the halftime buzzer to tie it and scored 18 points in the third quarter on 7-of-8 shooting, helping the Suns push to a 92-87 advantage entering the fourth. The defense also improved after the Clippers got several easy baskets in the second quarter.
“People talk about adjustments all the time and we make them,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But sometimes basketball is just being able to sit down and guard the ball, keep your man from getting to the basket and contesting the shot.”
Phoenix never trailed in the final quarter, slowly pulling away. It was their first playoff win with Durant on the floor. The team was 8-0 during the regular season with the 13-time All-Star following his trade from the Brooklyn Nets in February.
The series moves to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Kawhi Leonard led Los Angeles with 31 points after he scored 38 in Game 1. Russell Westbrook added 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
“We know it is going to be a tough series,” Westbrook said. “They came back and took care of business tonight.”
Booker had a stellar shooting night, connecting on 14 of 22 shots, including 4 of 7 on 3s. He added nine assists. Deandre Ayton added 14 points — on 7-of-10 shooting— and 13 rebounds. Torrey Craig hit 5 of 8 3s and had 17 points, and Chris Paul had 16 points and eight assists.
“We tried to blitz. We tried to fire. We did a lot of different things,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They played great.”
Celtics beat Hawks 119-106 for 2-0 series lead
Earlier, Jayson Tatum knew what was coming and waited for his moment.
His team leading by 10 with less than three minutes to play, he hawked Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young as he dribbled on the right wing and tried to lead Tatum into a screen.
But the Boston Celtics All-Star brushed it off and stretched to swat Young’s attempt at a step-back 3-pointer. The loose ball was scooped up by Derrick White and tossed ahead to a streaking Tatum for an one-handed dunk.
The play ended a clinching late run and was the final basket of the night for Tatum and Boston beat Atlanta 119-106 to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
While Tatum had the exclamation point and finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds, he said the night belonged to White. The defensive-minded guard contributed all over the court, pouring 26 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.