Devin Booker produced another 30-point scoring display as the Phoenix Suns notched six wins in a row since the NBA’s restart with a blowout victory over Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
Booker scored 35 points with five rebounds and four assists in a 128-101 win that maintained Phoenix’s improbable charge towards a place in the Western Conference play-in.
It was the fourth time in six games that Booker has scored more than 30 points in Orlando, where the Suns are a perfect 6-0 since the season resumed inside the NBA’s bubble last month.
Booker’s latest masterclass included an audacious three-pointer from near halfway late in the third period that extended the Suns’ lead to 13 points, and underscored his status as the NBA’s form player.
Booker’s offensive effort was backed by double-digit scoring from five team-mates, with starters Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson scoring 18 points each and Dario Saric adding 16 points. Cameron Payne had 14 points off the bench, while Deandre Ayton added 10 points.
Oklahoma City’s scoring was led by Darius Bazley with 22 points, while Abdel Nader had 15 points. The Suns (32-39) began the season restart as rank outsiders for a place in the playoffs from the Western Conference.
Monday’s win lifted them above San Antonio into 10th place in the race for a place in next weekend’s play-in tournament. But even if the Suns win their two remaining seeding games – against Philadelphia on Tuesday and against Dallas on Thursday – they will need rivals Memphis, Portland and San Antonio to lose once in their final games to secure a berth in the play-in.
Suns coach Monty Williams warned afterwards that the team was still a long way from achieving its goal of a first appearance in the playoffs for a decade.
“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Williams said. “That may sound like coach speak, but we dug ourselves into a hole with our record this season. We scrapped all year long and won some games. But it’s been an uphill battle for us. We’ve done a good job of getting to this point and no one knew we were going to be here.
“But we haven’t accomplished anything as far as the main goal is, of getting to the playoffs,” he said.
Elsewhere on Monday, the Dallas Mavericks overpowered the Utah Jazz 122-114, with Tim Hardaway Jr scoring 27 points. Seth Curry added 22 points with Boban Marjanovic adding 20 for the Mavs, who were without the resting Luka Doncic.
At the top of the East, the NBA champion Toronto Raptors took advantage of the absence of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo to record a 114-106 win in a potential preview of the conference finals.
Chris Boucher had 25 points off the bench for Toronto, while Matt Thomas had 22 points. Kyle Korver led Milwaukee’s scoring with 19 from the bench.
With his team already assured of second seeding in the East, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he is using the remaining games before the players to assess depth off the bench.
“I think it’s still a matter of ironing out some rhythm and playing hard on defence and rhythm on offense,” Nurse said. “It’s a chance here to see a few more faces that need to be out there. There hasn’t been a lot of minutes, for whatever reason, for some of the guys coming off the bench, and we need to get them up to speed a little bit,” he said.
In the late Western Conference game, Kyle Kuzma drained a three-pointer in the closing seconds as the Los Angeles Lakers plucked a 124-121 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
LeBron James finished with 29 points for the Lakers, who had already assured themselves of top spot, while Anthony Davis finished with 27 points. Kuzma’s winning three took his game tally to 25 points.