Booker leads Suns against Thunder in first game without Chris Paul


ORKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Devin Booker had 25 points, 12 assists and six steals to help lead the NBA Phoenix Sunsbeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 124–104 on Thursday night.

Booker played point guard with All Star Chris Paul with a broken right thumb. Booker finished the season with an assist record and helped the Suns win their eighth game in a row.

“I think Devin did a good job,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.

Oklahoma City took down big man DeAndre Ayton, limiting him to six points on five shots. Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges each scored 21 points for the Suns, who won 19 of 20 to improve their record to 49-10.

The Suns will try to turn Paul’s absence into an evolving experience.

“I feel like we can only get better from this,” Suns forward Jay Crowder said. “Obviously we put ourselves in a position to have an airbag. But at the same time we play for something. We play purposeful basketball every night.”

Shai Gilgeus-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 32 points after missing 10 games with a sprained right ankle. Rookie defenseman Josh Giddy, who had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists, said he was pleased to have Gilgeous-Alexander back.

“I love playing with him,” Giddy said. “I think the teamwork gets better and better over time. I think in a few years we will be one of the best backcourts in the league. So growing up with him is what I love to do.”

How the Suns won the game.

Phoenix led 31-14 at the end of the first quarter, leading Oklahoma City 14-0 on fast break points after nine interceptions.

The Thunder finished in second place behind Gilgeus-Alexander’s nine points over that period. Crowder’s layup on the buzzer gave the Suns a 48–45 halftime lead. Before the break, Gilgeus-Alexander scored 15 points.

The Thunder finally took the lead early in the third quarter, but the Suns regained control and led 85–77 heading into the fourth. Phoenix hit 5 of 8 3-pointers in the third quarter after 2 of 17 in the first half.

The Thunder cut it to 94-91 in the fourth quarter, but the Suns closed out 30-13.

“It’s good that we got rid of that game,” Williams said. “I thought we had rust in the pipes tonight and we were able to get rid of it and get used to Book (Booker) playing some point.”


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