Powell’s big night offset by Booker’s 45

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Norman Powell dropped 42 points on the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series between the two teams. Russell Westbrook balled out with 30 points and 12 rebounds.

That’s 72 of the 124 points the Los Angeles Clippers would hang on the Suns without either Paul George or Kawhi Leonard playing. Despite getting monstrous efforts from both Powell and Westbrook, the Clippers were still short of winning Game 3, losing to the Suns, 129-124. The Suns now lead the series, 2-1.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook (0) with the block in Game 3 as guard Eric Gordon (10) looks on. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

Even without Leonard and George out, the Clippers gave Booker and the Suns all they had. Powell said even with the team’s top two players out, the Clippers have the mentality that they can win any time against any opponent.

“I just think it’s the culture that we have, the effort, the belief that we have in the coaching staff, each other, in ourselves,” Powell said. “Holding each other accountable. Laying it on the line. I think everybody has the experience and knows what it takes to win, has the will to win. When you put out the effort the way we did tonight, the way we do consistently, things are going to work out for us. I just think it’s the culture that’s been built with T. Lu and the guys. That’s the biggest thing.”

The Clippers lost this game because they couldn’t stop Devin Booker.

Booker scored a game-high 45 points, just another legendary game for a legendary player. The Clippers also lost this game because they put Phoenix at the free-throw line 46 times. The Suns made 35 of their free shots. In comparison, the Clippers were only afforded 25 of those opportunities, converting 19 of their shots at the charity line.

Westbrook said after the game that it’s difficult to execute a game plan when the opposing team is always at the free-throw line.

“It’s tough,” Westbrook said. “Just got to stick to our game plan. It’s a series. We’ll stick to that.”

Clippers head coach Tyroon Lue summed up the defeat around more free throw opportunities for the Suns and the play of Booker.

“I thought free throws…free throws was huge,” Lue said. “I think Devin Booker. Those two really hurt us. We had some bad fouls when we got the penalty early. We wanted to bring physicality, but we got to be a little bit smarter. We can’t foul off the ball when they are in the bonus and things like that. I like what we brought.

Los Angeles Clippers center Mason Plumlee (44) goes for the block on Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (2) in Game 3 of the first round Western Conference series on April 20, 2023. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

Lue continued, “We did some good things. I liked our fight and our competitive nature tonight. I thought everybody brought it. Some calls just didn’t go our way. Like I said, a small lineup came in. They played well. We fought. We competed. A couple times for us it was hard to get rebounds. Balls down low in rotations. Like I said, I love our fight, love what we did tonight.” 

The Clippers outplayed the Suns in a lot of categories in Game 3. The Clippers shot the ball better than the Suns from the field with a 54 to 47 percent advantage. They beat them in shooting the three-ball, making 42 percent of their 3-point shots compared to the Suns’ 37 percent in the same category.

The Clippers also had more fastbreak points (18-15) and handed out more assists (26-20) than the Suns. However, outside of Phoenix getting more chances to shoot free throws, the Clippers failed to play defense in the second half. Los Angeles gave up 75 points during the last two quarters, including surrendering 40 points in the third period.

Booker scored 24 of his points over the course of those two quarters, including 13 in the third period when he and Westbrook (15 points) were countering one another with one spectacular play after another.

“We would blitz him, he’s splitting the blitz, rejecting the blitz, dribbling around the blitz,” Lue said of Booker. “When we’re firing, he’s going quick. He’s shifty, he’s elusive. We just got to do a better job. More so than attacking him, we got to probably corral more than attack him because he is shifty. He gets to the free-throw line, he can turn the corner, he can split you. That’s what he did to us tonight.”

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