PHOENIX • The Phoenix Suns were the worst team in the Western Conference and the joint second-worst team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) last season, so not even the most optimistic fan would have envisaged the transformation that has followed since.
The hosts ended the Philadelphia 76ers' run as the last unbeaten team in the league this campaign with a 114-109 win at the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Monday night to improve to 5-2. The Sixers, who were paced by 32 points from Al Horford, slid to 5-1.
It took Phoenix 29 league games last term before they recorded their fifth victory, but the key to their upturn in form this campaign has been Devin Booker.
The guard, in his fifth season with the Suns, has improved year after year, taking up the mantle as the franchise's marquee player. Amid chants of "MVP" (Most Valuable Player), he dropped a game-high 40 points to become the eighth-youngest player in the NBA to crack the 6,000 career-points mark.
The 23-year-old was 15 of 19 from the field, including three of four from three-point range, and seven of seven on free throws, leading his coach Monty Williams to hail him as "a complete player".
"I've said it for a while,'' he said. "Devin's competitive, not afraid of the moment. He makes big plays.''
Acknowledging "the love" from the home crowd, Booker added: "It's been unconditional since day 1.
"It's good to feel the energy in there. The fans are getting what they want - a hardworking team that pushes the issue every night.''
Spanish guard Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 10 assists for the Suns, raising hope they can finally put an end to a nine-year play-off drought and Williams believes his players are showing they "can play with anybody in the freaking league".
Elsewhere, All-Star guards James Harden and Kyrie Irving had big nights for their respective teams.
6,003 Devin Booker is the eighth-youngest to hit the 6,000 mark.
A day after a 29-point loss at the Miami Heat, the Houston Rockets bounced back to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 107-100.
The visitors were fuelled by NBA scoring leader Harden's 44 points - his 80th career game with 40 or more points - overcoming Russell Westbrook's absence after the All-Star guard was rested.
In Brooklyn, Irving had 39 points as the Nets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 135-125 to offset a career-high 40-point display by Brandon Ingram.
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