Devin Booker scored 34 points as the second-seeded Phoenix Suns outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers in their Western Conference playoff series opener with a hardfought 99-90 victory on Sunday.
Booker — playing in the first NBA playoff game of his career — spearheaded a deserved win over the reigning NBA champions, rallying his team after an injury to Chris Paul restricted the Phoenix veteran’s influence.
Booker was backed by Deandre Ayton, who contributed 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson added 10 points apiece for Phoenix.
A physical encounter saw the Suns’ Cameron Payne ejected in the fourth quarter after a shoving match which saw players and backroom staff stream onto the court as tempers flared.
The Lakers, meanwhile, struggled to hit their stride throughout, with LeBron James finishing with 18 points and Anthony Davis restricted to 13 points after making only five-of-16 from the field.
Barring an early spell in the first quarter when the Lakers led by five points, the Suns led throughout, maintaining a double-digit cushion for much of the second half and leading by 16 points early in the fourth.
“It was a big win for us,” Booker said, revealing that the early injury to Paul had galvanised the Suns.
“Chris went down early and I think that got our team locked in and understanding that every possession matters. We huddled up and said we’ve all got to give a little bit more.” —APP