LOS ANGELES: The Phoenix Suns held off a fourth quarter charge by the Los Angeles Clippers to squeeze out a 130-122 win on Saturday for their first victory in the series in three years.
Devin Booker scored 30 points, Kelly Oubre added 20 as the Suns outgunned the Kawhi Leonard-led Clipper offence in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“That’s going to be our identity,” said Booker. “It is a whole different mindset. A whole different mentality. We are all moving as one and we are sticking together.”
Phoenix led by 15 points halfway through the final quarter but the Clippers cut it to six on Leonard’s three pointer with less than two minutes remaining. Phoenix’s Tyler Johnson then drained a shot from beyond the arc to blunt the Los Angeles rally.
The Suns won for the first time since losing centre Deandre Ayton to a 25-game suspension for a failed drug test.
Phoenix also halted a 12-game losing skid to the Clippers.
Frank Kaminsky had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Suns, who have won two of the season’s first three games for the first time since 2015.
“Holding that team to 22 points in the first quarter means we got off to a great start. They were the Clippers, but we were pretty good,” said coach Monty Williams.
Los Angeles was led by Montrezl Harrell’s 28 points and 27 from Leonard.
“I thought we were late on everything. We deserved to lose,” Clipper coach Doc Rivers said.
Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook posted his second straight triple double since joining Houston to lead the Rockets to a 126-123 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Westbrook recorded his 139th career triple double to pass Magic Johnson for second on the all-time list, behind only Oscar Robertson’s 181.
Westbrook had 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds and James Harden had a poor shooting night but still managed 29 points.
“I know nowadays getting a triple-double seems normal, but I take a lot of pride (in it),” Westbrook said. “For me, that’s a great accomplishment. Now, I’m able to be in the history books.”
Elsewhere the Miami Heat completed a superb second-half comeback to spoil Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks’ home opener with a 131-126 overtime victory.
Reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo led the scoring with 29 points, including a magical buzzer-beating tip-in to force overtime, but was unable to thwart Miami’s victory charge.
The Heat, missing star Jimmy Butler, had trailed by 21 points in the third quarter but exploded to overwhelm the Bucks down the stretch, outscoring the home team by 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Goran Dragic led the Miami scoring with 25 points from the bench while Bam Adebayo weighed in with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
Kendrick Nunn added 18 points while four other Miami players finished with double digit tallies.
Antetokounmpo delivered a highlight reel moment with his improvised tip-in to tie it up at 121-121.
Down by two with three seconds remaining, the Bucks inbounded to Khris Middleton who launched a long-range effort from the perimeter.
With the shot falling short, Antetokounmpo collected in mid-air and dropped the ball into the basket to force overtime.
However the Heat proved the stronger in overtime, outscoring the Bucks 10-5 to close out the win.
Butler missed Wednesday’s season-opening win as well after his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl. The Heat were also missing power forward James Johnson and shooting guard Dion Waiters. AFP