BOSTON • Phoenix guard Devin Booker's scintillating 70-point performance put his name among some of the National Basketball Association's greats on Friday, but it could not lift his Suns to a win over the Boston Celtics.
He became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game and, at 20, is the youngest ever to do so. But the Celtics withstood the effort for a 130-120 victory that kept them one game behind the NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers in the race for the Eastern Conference lead.
Booker scored 28 of his 70 points in the fourth quarter, 18 in the final 3min 46sec as his team called timeouts and committed fouls to stop the clock.
"It's a zone. It's kind of hard to explain," said the second-year player, who arrived at the TD Garden averaging 20.9 points per game.
"I've been in those zones before, but never to this extent."
He said he once scored 56 points in a high school game, "but not anything close since then". His previous career high was 39 points.
His haul on Friday was the most points ever scored against the Celtics, and tied for the 10th-most points in NBA history. He joined Wilt Chamberlain (six times), Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson as the only 70-point scorers in league history - and he shattered Tom Chambers' 27-year-old club record of 60.
Booker went 21 of 40 from the floor, four of 11 from three-point range, canned 24 of his 26 free throws and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
Yet the Suns never led during the game. The Celtics (47-26) held their visitors (22-51) without a field goal for the first 7:15, building a 22-3 lead before settling for a 13-point advantage after the first quarter.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, a former Sun, scored a team-high 34 points and handed out seven assists.
The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 112-105 in a bruising encounter in Charlotte. Superstar LeBron James was pleased with the intensity and defensive effort Cleveland displayed in holding the Hornets to 42.2 per cent shooting.
"I liked our disposition tonight," he said. "We came in with a physical mindset and basically that helped us win the game because it was physical from the start right down to the finish."
He just missed achieving a triple-double, scoring 32 points with 11 assists and nine rebounds but suffered a corneal abrasion when he was poked in the eye during the third quarter.
The Cavs said he could miss this morning's (Singapore time) clash with the Wizards (44-28) in Washington.
Number of players who ended up on the losing NBA team after scoring at least 70 points. Suns' Devin Booker joined David Thompson (once) and Wilt Chamberlain (thrice) on Friday.
The Wizards, third in the East, tuned up for that marquee match-up with a 129-108 victory over the lowly Brooklyn Nets. That win, along with losses by the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, saw Washington clinch a play-off berth for the third time in four seasons.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
CLEVELAND V WASHINGTON
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