Suns burn Jazz, Durant hot in return

LOS ANGELES • Devin Booker did the heavy lifting offensively, scoring 35 points as the Phoenix Suns edged out the Utah Jazz 117-113 in overtime in a Western Conference showdown between the two best teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The Suns not only won their seventh straight game, but the nail-biting victory also gives them an important psychological edge over the Jazz as the pandemic-shortened 72-game NBA season nears the final stretch.

"It came down to perseverance," said Booker of the thrilling match that lived up to its pre-game billing. "We had the right approach. It wasn't a pretty win but any time you can beat a team like that it is good."

The second-placed Suns improved to 36-14 and cut the Jazz's lead atop the Western Conference to 11/2 games. Both teams came into the contest having won nine of their last 10 games.

Chris Paul had 29 points and nine assists and Deandre Ayton finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix, who picked up their second win in two meetings with the Jazz this season.

Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 41 points for the Jazz. Mitchell forced the overtime with a key three-pointer late in regulation in front of the crowd of 5,100 at PHX Arena.

Elsewhere, Kevin Durant scored 17 points in his timely return from injury absence as the Brooklyn Nets clobbered the New Orleans Pelicans 139-111 in New York.

It was a perfect shooting night for Durant, whose return came after star point guard James Harden suffered a hamstring injury and is expected to be out for at least 10 days. "It worked out. I wasn't trying to ease into the game," said Durant, who came off the bench for just the second time in his career. "I knew exactly how I needed to approach it."

He shot five of five from the field, five of five from the free-throw line and two of two from beyond the arc. He was one of seven Nets players to reach double figures in front of the pandemic-limited crowd of 1,700 at Barclays Centre arena.

He had missed the past 23 games with a left hamstring injury and had not played since Feb 13. The Nets were 19-4 while he was out.

"It was nice to have him back. It has been a long absence. He had a big smile on his face," said coach Steve Nash.

The performance of the Pelicans, who were outscored 43-26 in the second quarter, left their coach Stan Van Gundy fuming.

"We got dominated at both ends of the floor. Totally dominated," he said. "Our defence was absurd."

Zion Williamson, who had his streak of consecutive games with 20-plus points on 50 per cent shooting or better snapped at 25 games, earned just 16 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor.

He is tied with former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal for the longest such streak in the NBA.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2021, with the headline 'Suns burn Jazz, Durant hot in return'. Subscribe