LOS ANGELES – Kawhi Leonard has arguably been playing some of his best basketball in the Clippers and Suns playoff series. That performance was missed Thursday night in Phoenix’s 129-124 win in Game 3.
Leonard remained on the Clippers’ sideline on Thursday with a right knee sprain he had suffered in Game 1, and is now considered to be day-to-day.
“It’s very deflating. I think more so for Kawhi,” stated head coach Tyronn Lue on Leonard being out. “You have a guy who’s coming off an ACL, hasn’t missed a rehab session, eats clean… Then you have something like this happen… I feel bad for him.”
Leonard sat next to his teammate and fellow key scorer Paul George, who has also been out with the same injury since the end of March. With both players out the Suns were able to snuff out a gritty effort from a Clippers team that went 45-83 from the field and 15-35 from deep.
Devin Booker once again served as a catalyst for Phoenix throughout all four quarters. Booker put on a 40-point performance on 62% field goal shooting.
“He’s making some tough shots,” said Rusell Westbrook on Booker’s playoff performance thus far. “But we gotta be more aggressive on him, lock in on him and tendencies. But we’ll make sure we do that on Saturday, for sure.”
Turning point: Twenty combined turnovers between both teams in the first half made it a tight 54-51 game at the end of the second quarter. Phoenix went on to extend their lead to as much as 13 points over the Clippers in the third, but Los Angeles would not go down without a fight.
After two made free throws from Westbrook Los Angeles cut their deficit to three points with just under two minutes in the fourth. However, the Suns responded with 10 points in that timeframe to seal the 129-124 victory.
What it means: The Suns take their first 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series before heading into Game 4, which will take place just about 38 hours after Thursday’s ended.
Hits: Westbrook produced 30 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists in Los Angeles’ battle with the Suns. He finished Game 3 11-23 (48%) from the field and 3-7 (43%) in three-pointers.
Misses: Early turnovers and fouls hurt Los Angeles the most. The Clippers led Phoenix in turnovers 18-13 and finished with 31 fouls that allowed 46 free throws. Those free throws for the Suns are the most in a playoff game since the Miami Heat shot 52 against the Indiana Pacers in 2020.
Stat of the game: Powell had a new playoff career high with 42 points on 15-23 shooting. He also made seven three-pointers and added five rebounds for Los Angeles.
Up next: The Clippers will have the opportunity to tie the series once again on Saturday for a matinee Game 4. Both teams will remain at the Crypto.com Arena at 12:30 p.m.