Booker, Paul lead Suns past depleted Jazz, 115-109
PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Paul and his 36-year-old legs played 40 minutes of basketball for the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
The way he was cooking in the fourth quarter of a 115-109 win over the short-handed Utah Jazz, one of the best point guards in NBA history looked like he was ready to play 40 more.
“I feel good, I’m cool,” Paul said with a grin. “I’ll hoop again tomorrow if you want to.”
Devin Booker scored 33 points, Paul had 15 of his a season-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, and the Suns rallied for their seventh straight win.
Paul just missed a triple-double with 14 assists and nine rebounds. The Suns improved their NBA-best record to 37-9, matching the 2006-07 team for the best start in franchise history.
The gritty Jazz trailed by 13 in the first half but jumped ahead 87-85 by the end of the third quarter. Utah pushed its lead to 95-91 early in the fourth but the Suns responded with a 14-2 run to take control.
“We had a good start to the game and then we got a little comfortable,” Booker said. “Those guys were ready to play. They took advantage of their opportunity, came out aggressive and confident. Once they got confidence, they were a little tougher to stop.”
Paul was the main catalyst for Phoenix’s final push, dominating the fourth quarter when Booker cooled off following a hot start. The 11-time All-Star made his first five shots of the period, including two 3-pointers. Suns coach Monty Williams doesn’t like to give Paul such heavy minutes in the regular season, but sometimes it’s hard to take him off the court.
“We needed it tonight to get the win,” Williams said.
Utah was missing All-Stars Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. The Jazz lost for the eight times in 11 games.
Jordan Clarkson led the Jazz with 22 points, including three straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that made things interesting into the final minute.
“Collectively, we played hard,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s a credit to our guys because the team we played plays hard. That’s why it was such a competitive game. I think what Chris (Paul) did in the fourth quarter, he’s unique, obviously.”
The Suns scored the first seven points and took a 31-21 lead into the second quarter. Booker scored 17 points in the first, making 8 of 13 shots with four rebounds and two assists.
The Jazz rallied in the second quarter and cut the advantage to 58-56 by halftime. Booker led the Suns with 19 points before the break while Trent Forrest — who came into Monday averaging 1.9 points per game — led the Jazz with 11.
LONG INJURY REPORT
Utah was without six of its top nine leading scorers, including Mitchell (concussion), Gobert (left calf strain), Bojan Bogdanovic (left finger fracture), Joe Ingles (right ankle sprain), Conley (right knee injury maintenance) and Royce O’Neale (right knee tendinitis).
The Suns were missing Cameron Payne (right wrist sprain), Deandre Ayton (right ankle sprain) and Jae Crowder (right wrist contusion). Payne and Crowder were hurt in Saturday night’s win over the Pacers.
Utah’s Rudy Gay became one of the top 100 scorers in NBA/ABA history with a free throw in the fourth quarter.
The 35-year-old has 17,193 career points, passing Chris Webber for the No. 100 spot. He has more career points than Joe Dumars, James Worthy, Grant Hill, Bob Cousy or Jerry Stackhouse.
Gay has never made an All-Star team. He was the eighth pick in the 2006 draft and has averaged 16.5 points per game in his career, including more than 20 in three seasons.
Jazz: Utah’s makeshift starting lineup included Danuel House Jr., Gay, Hassan Whiteside, Clarkson and Forrest. … Forrest finished with a career-high 17 points. … Clarkson has 1,001 career 3-pointers. … Utah’s record fell to 30-18.
Suns: F Cam Johnson started in place of Crowder. He poured in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. … The Suns hosted a sellout crowd for a ninth straight game.
The teams play again at Utah on Wednesday.