Devin Booker scored 34 points, Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 16 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns won their first playoff game in 11 years, beating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 on Sunday.
It was the first playoff game for several Suns players, including Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges, but they didn’t look like postseason rookies against LeBron James and the Lakers. They helped Phoenix offset a tough game for veteran All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who didn’t look healthy after a right shoulder injury in the second quarter.
The Suns led 86-70 early in the fourth, but the Lakers quickly cut it to 86-77 with 9:02 left.
That’s about the time things got a little rowdy. L.A.’s Alex Caruso and Phoenix’s Cameron Payne got into an altercation near the sideline after Payne knocked Caruso to the ground. L.A.’s Montrezl Harrell jumped into the fray and both teams had to be separated. Caruso and Harrell were each given a technical foul, and Payne was given two technicals and ejected.
But Booker kept making shots and Ayton was a force on the glass, finishing with eight offense rebounds and shooting 10 of 11 from the field. The Lakers never got within striking distance in the final minutes.
James finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Anthony Davis shot just 5 of 16 from the field and had 13 points. The Lakers shot 7 of 26 (27%) from 3-point range.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
It was an eventful first half that saw the Suns take a 53-45 lead.
James hit two early 3s but Phoenix responded with its own flurry from long range. Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer made it 24-17 with 4:18 left in the first quarter and Lakers coach Frank Vogel called his second timeout. Phoenix had a 32-25 lead after the first.
But the festive atmosphere in Phoenix turned to a stunned silence early in the second quarter when Paul bumped into teammate Cameron Johnson and fell to the floor in obvious pain while holding his right shoulder. He was down for a couple of minutes — surrounded by players from both teams — before slowly walking off the floor with a towel over his head.
The 36-year-old star returned a few minutes later to a huge roar from the crowd, but didn’t look right. He was dribbling mostly with his left hand and missed the only shot he took before halftime.
No. 8 Memphis stuns No. 1 Utah in Game 1
Dillon Brooks had 31 points and seven rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Utah Jazz 112-109 in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.
The eighth-seeded Grizzlies put the Western Conference top-seeded Jazz in an early hole. Game 2 of the series in Wednesday night.
Brooks set a single-game franchise scoring record for a Memphis player making their NBA playoff debut, surpassing the 24 points scored by Marc Gasol against San Antonio on April 17, 2011.
Ja Morant added 26 points. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Kyle Anderson added 14 points.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Jazz. Mike Conley had 22 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds. Rudy Gobert added 15 rebounds and 11 points, and Derrick Favors finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Trae Young lifts Hawks over Knicks
Trae Young made a runner in the lane with 0.9 seconds left to give the Atlanta Hawks a 107-105 victory over the New York Knicks in a thrilling postseason return for both teams.
Young finished with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He frustrated the Knicks with his ability to draw fouls and made all nine free throws when he did.
Many in the loud crowd of more than 15,000 jeered Young throughout the night but he got the final word when he drove right through the Knicks’ defense and floated in his shot from right of the basket.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 18 points for the Hawks in their first postseason game since 2017.
Alec Burks scored 27 points for the Knicks, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Derrick Rose scored 17 points, but Julius Randle shot just 6 for 23 while finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Knicks host Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Sixers Big 3 subdue Wizards
Tobias Harris showed why Philadelphia might have its own Big 3 worthy of winning a championship.
Harris carried top-seeded Philadelphia’s offense when it sagged early and scored 37 points, Joel Embiid had 30 and the 76ers survived the sub.-500 Washington Wizards in a 125-118 Game 1 victory.
Game 2 is Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Harris scored 28 points in the first half, making a case Philly has — with All-Stars Embiid and Ben Simmons — three big stars that could rival the superstar trio of Kevin Durant-James Harden-Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
The Sixers needed Harris’ outburst to offset an upset-minded Wizards team that was within five points with 45 seconds left. Bradley Beal scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook had 16 — but neither sensational scorer took over in long enough stretches needed for an upset. Westbrook even stepped out of bounds with 37 seconds left, cutting off a potential rally.
Unable to create consistent offense outside of Harris, the Sixers finally put together a 3-point barrage late in the third quarter that had 11,160 fans — roughly half-capacity — sounding as if it was 20,000-plus packing the house.
Portland stuns Nuggets at home
What had Damian Lillard so excited wasn’t his 34 points or 13 assists or how he led Portland’s 3-point barrage that sparked the Trail Blazers’ win over the undermanned Denver Nuggets in their playoff opener Saturday night.
It was holding NBA MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic to a single assist. That’s something no opponent had done all year against the Nuggets superstar center who averaged a career-best 8.3 assists this season.
“It was huge,” Lillard said after Portland’s 123-109 victory. “We know when they’re at their best, he’s setting the table, he’s dominating the game as a playmaker and he’s scoring and he’s kind of having his way.