The Los Angeles Clippers overcame an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to have a chance late in the closing minutes but it was Devin Booker who stole the show and game for the Phoenix Suns.
Booker scored 35 points, making six three-pointers and adding eight assists while the Suns stunned the Clippers, grabbing a 117-115 victory in the Orlando bubble on Tuesday.
Thanks to an offensive rebound from Suns center Deandre Ayton with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth, Booker pivoted twice and drained a contested fade away over the outstretched hands of Clippers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at the buzzer.
Ayton scored 19 and had seven rebounds, Ricky Rubio added 18, four assists and four boards.
“This is a fun team to be a part of and we’re having fun with it,” said Booker who helped the Suns (29-39) improve to 3-0 in the bubble while the team is competing for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“You pretty much (saw) the shot,” Leonard said. “He got to his spot.”
Leonard led the Clippers with 27 points and George added 23. Ivica Zubac had 18 and 12 rebounds while Marcus Morris Sr. added 16.
It was the second loss in three bubble games for the Clippers (45-22) who still hold a narrow one game lead over the third place Denver Nuggets (44-23).
Los Angeles shot 49 percent from the field, while the Phoenix shot 47, but it was the Suns who converted 17 of 32 three-pointers, compared to the Clippers only making 8 on a 27 percent clip.
“Give Phoenix credit. I thought they played so much harder than us throughout the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ”They contested a lot of shots. They ran guys.”
Guard Lou Williams made his debut in the Orlando bubble for Los Angeles and had seven points, six assists and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
“I thought Lou was okay. Obviously didn’t have great timing,” Rivers said. “Played probably more minutes than I thought he could. I was happy with that.”
Williams was forced to quarantine 10 days after visiting a strip club known as Magic City in Atlanta after he was given permission to leave the Orlando Disney bubble for a family member’s funeral.
“I think as far as the public safety issue goes, I probably could have made a better quality decision,” Williams said after missing the first two games of the NBA restart.
“At the end of the day, I was truly grieving two weeks ago,” Williams added. “I was thrown under the bus, and the attention was thrown to Magic City. If I went to a steakhouse or Hooters, it wouldn’t have been a story.”
The Clippers have had a plethora of players throughout the season who have been in and out of the lineup and currently are still dealing with that dilemma in Orlando.
Patrick Beverley played just eight minutes before leaving the game with what was described as calf soreness while forward Montrezl Harrell remained away from the team due to a family personal matter.
The Clippers used an 8-2 run in the fourth after Zubac slammed home an alley-oop dunk to cut the lead to 107-105 with just under five minutes to play.
Booker however then went on to score 6 of the Phoenix’s final 10 points resulting in the 117-115 victory, helping defeat the Clippers for the second time this season.
“There’s going to be a time where you make a turnaround as a team,” Leonard said. “All we can do is just keep using these games as a learning experience, [make] less mistakes next game, give a better effort, more energy.”
The Clippers will look to bounce back and pick up a victory as they face the Dallas Mavericks (41-29) in Orlando on Thursday at 3:30 Pacific Time.