LOS ANGELES: Devin Booker scored 34 points as the Phoenix Suns overpowered Golden State 134-105 in a hard-fought clash that saw Warriors star Klay Thompson ejected for the first time in his career. Booker produced another 30-point scoring exhibition for the third straight game as the Suns laid down an early marker against the defending NBA champions. The 25-year-old Phoenix talisman was also at the center of a third-quarter skirmish with Thompson that led to the Warriors’ future Hall-of-Famer being tossed for the first time in his 651-game career.
Thompson was expelled after he bumped Booker midway through the third quarter to earn a technical before earning a second technical as he unleashed a tirade at the Suns and referee Ed Malloy. That flashpoint proved decisive, with the Suns exploiting the Warriors’ lack of composure to turn an 83-77 advantage into a 13-point lead at 90-77. The Suns would eventually outscore the Warriors 33-20 in the third to take a 105-86 lead into the final period.
Golden State rallied to cut the deficit to 12 points midway through the fourth, but Phoenix pulled away once again to seal a deserved victory. Booker, who has averaged 32 points in four games to start the campaign, said Phoenix were determined to impress against the reigning NBA champions. “Those are the defending champs over there,” Booker said. “They have a culture, an environment, they’re holding the crown.
“Every time we match up against them we want to play hard and play competitive.” Booker made no apologies for his spirited clash with Warriors veteran Thompson. “I love Klay Thompson, and I have from the beginning, coming up. Right from the draft I said I wanted to be Klay Thompson,” Booker said. “But that doesn’t excuse us from competing against each other and talking a little mess with each other… big fan of his and his competitive nature, and that’s that.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also played down the Booker-Thompson clash. “They’re both great competitors, both great players,” Kerr said. “This is the NBA-it’s the highest competition in the world. Stuff like that happens.” Booker was given scoring support from Mikal Bridges with 17 points while Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul added 16 points each. Stephen Curry led the Warriors scoring with 21 points with Jordan Poole adding 17. Thompson departed with two points after making just 1-of-8 from the field.
Doncic falls short
Elsewhere Tuesday, Luka Doncic scored 37 points but it was not enough to stop the Dallas Mavericks slipping to defeat against the depleted New Orleans Pelicans. Slovenian star Doncic dragged the Mavs to within one point of the Pels with four seconds remaining after a driving lay-up made it 112-111. The 23-year-old was left shaking his head in disappointment after a three-point effort on the buzzer that would have snatched victory bounced off the rim to hand New Orleans a 113-111 win.
Doncic finished with 11 rebounds and seven assists in addition to his 37-point haul, with Spencer Dinwiddie providing support with 24 points and Christian Wood 23 points. But Dallas were ultimately pipped by a balanced New Orleans line-up that saw eight players finish in double figures. The victory was made all the more impressive given injuries that deprived New Orleans of regular starters Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
Trey Murphy III scored 22 points-making 8-of-8 from the field-while CJ McCollum made 14 points with 11 assists. McCollum later admitted he could barely watch as Doncic launched his last-gasp three-point attempt on the buzzer. “When he shot it I just thought ‘Please don’t go in, please don’t go in’,” McCollum told an on-court interviewer. “I didn’t shoot the ball well but a lot of young guys stepped up tonight and that’s what we’re going to need all season long.”
The Pelicans improved to 3-1 with a win to move into second in the Western Conference behind leaders Portland. Dallas fell to 1-2. The Washington Wizards took their season record to 3-1 with a 120-99 romp against the Detroit Pistons at home. Kyle Kuzma led the Washington scorers with 25 points with Kristaps Porzingis adding 20. Will Barton added 16 from the bench, including four three-pointers. Oklahoma City meanwhile routed the Los Angeles Clippers 108-94 with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 33 points. – AFP