NBA: Suns look to keep ascending against reeling Rockets; Giannis scores 50pts in Bucks' win

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes up for a layup against the LA Clippers, on Feb 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - The Phoenix Suns have opened up a gap in the competition for best record in the National Basketball Association with just 25 regular-season games remaining.

They will attempt to take another step forward on Wednesday (Feb 16) night when they host the downtrodden Houston Rockets in they final contest before the All-Star break.

The Suns (47-10) have won six straight games and 17 of their past 18 to build a 51/2-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the battle for home-court advantage throughout the post-season.

Phoenix fought off the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday with a 103-96 home win.

Devin Booker scored 26 points and Chris Paul added 17 points and 14 assists.

Paul has registered nine double-doubles in the past 10 contests. He fell one assist shy against the Washington Wizards on Feb 5 for the lone miss during the span.

The 36-year-old veteran is averaging 13.9 assists during the stretch to increase his league-leading average to 10.8 per game. He has posted 31 double-doubles.

"We try to stay true to who we are and play within our system," Paul said during a post-game television interview. "Sharing the ball, the open shot is the best shot. That's the way we play every night no matter who is in the lineup."

Booker and Paul received help from Mikal Bridges, who had 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Western Conference-worst Rockets (15-41) have lost nine of their past 10 entering this match-up. Their lone victory during the stretch was a 115-104 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb 2.

During the current five-game slide, Houston has allowed more than 130 points three times and given up an average of 127.

"A good team like that will punish you," veteran Houston guard Eric Gordon said after Rockets were crushed 135-101 by the Utah Jazz (36-21) on Monday in Salt Lake City.

"We just didn't play our game. We were just out there."

Houston will visit the Clippers (29-31) on Thursday in their final game before the break.

Meanwhile , Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 50 points as the Milwaukee Bucks earned a 128-119 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night to complete a four-game sweep of the season series.

He added 14 rebounds on 17-for-21 shooting to help the Bucks snap a two-game losing streak. Khris Middleton contributed 19 points and eight assists, and Jrue Holiday notched 14 points and eight assists.

In another game, Jaylen Brown had 29 points and eight rebounds, Jayson Tatum added 28 points and 12 rebounds and Boston blitzed hosts Philadelphia 135-87.

Aaron Nesmith contributed 18 points, Grant Williams scored 12 and Derrick White had 11 for the red-hot Celtics, who won their ninth game in a row.

However, Boston (34-25) lost Marcus Smart due to a first-half ankle injury. The Sixers (34-23) again played without James Harden, who was acquired last Thursday from the Nets.

Elsewhere, Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and 15 rebounds as Minnesota rallied from a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Charlotte 126-120 in overtime at Minneapolis.

And Trae Young scored 41 points - his fifth game with 40-plus points this season - to lead Atlanta to a 124-116 win over visiting Cleveland. He was 13 of 22 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from long distance. Danilo Gallinari scored a season-high 25 points for the Hawks, who had lost four of their previous five games.

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