PHOENIX (AP)Devin Booker scored 29 points, Chris Paul had a triple-double with 21 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns won their ninth straight game, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 134-124 on Friday night.
Cam Johnson – who has recently moved into a starting role with several key players are injured – hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through fourth to help push the Suns past the pesky Timberwolves. He finished with 23 points. The 6-foot-8 forward also had the assist on two more 3-pointers in the closing minutes – one by Landry Shamet and another by Paul.
Phoenix played without starters Deandre Ayton (right ankle sprain) and Jae Crowder (left wrist contusion) and key backups JaVale McGee (left knee soreness) and Cameron Payne (right wrist sprain).
The Suns improved to 39-9, the best start in franchise history. They moved to 30-0 when leading after three quarters, using the veteran savvy of Paul to take control in key moments. Phoenix hit 20 3-pointers to tie a season high. It was Paul’s 18th career triple-double and third since joining the Suns last season.
Anthony Edwards had 27 points and a career-high 10 assists for Minnesota. Malik Beasley added 26 points off the bench, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 23.
HORNETS 117, LAKERS 114
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Miles Bridges had 26 points, Ish Smith provided a huge boost off the bench with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting and Charlotte held off short-handed Los Angeles.
Russell Westbrook scored 35 points for the Lakers, but missed a potential winning 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left.
LeBron James missed his second straight game because of left knee soreness, and Anthony Davis did not play due to right wrist soreness. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he held out his star center as a precautionary measure after Davis scored 31 points in a loss at Philadelphia on Thursday night.
LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier each had 20 points for the Hornets. Carmelo Anthony added 19 points for the Lakers, and rookie Austin Reaves had 16.
The Hornets were coming off a game Wednesday night where they scored a franchise-record 158 points against Indiana. Kelly Oubre Jr. who had 39 points on 10 3-pointers in that game, did not play due to a sprained ankle.
BUCKS 123, KNICKS 108
MILWAUKEE (AP) -Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 13 rebounds and made numerous big plays in the fourth quarter to help Milwaukee beat New York.
The Bucks never trailed as they won for the fourth time in five games and bounced back from a 115-99 loss at Cleveland. The Knicks have lost six of seven.
Jrue Holiday scored 24 points, Khris Middleton had 20 and Grayson Allen added 15 for the Bucks. Allen returned after serving a one-game suspension as punishment for a flagrant 2 foul that broke Alex Caruso’s right wrist, knocking the Chicago guard out for at least six to eight weeks.
Evan Fournier had 25 points for the Knicks.
GRIZZLIES 119, JAZZ 109
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Ja Morant had 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth career tripble-double and Memphis pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Utah.
Brandon Clarke added 22 points for Memphis, and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 18 points and matched his season high with six blocks. Desmond Bane added 17 for the Grizzlies.
Danuel House Jr. led the short-handed Jazz with 21 points.
NUGGETS 116, PELICANS 105
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Nikola Jokic scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half to go with 13 rebounds and 10 assists and Denver held off short-handed New Orleans.
Jokic had just seven points during a closely contested first half, after which the Nuggets led 50-48. The reigning NBA MVP proceeded to score 16 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half, hitting three of the four 3-point shots in that stretch.
Aaron Gordon scored 20 points for the Nuggets. They won their fourth straight and fifth in six games.
New Orleans rookie Herb Jones scored 19 points. The Pelicans were without Brandon Ingram (right ankle) and Jonas Valanciunas (non-COVID illness).
HEAT 121, CLIPPERS 114
MIAMI (AP) – Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and Miami withstood another furious comeback from Los Angeles.
Gabe Vincent finished with 23 points, and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat. They have won 10 of 12.
The Eastern Conference-leading Heat snapped a six-game losing streak against the Clippers. Miami’s last win over Los Angeles was on Dec. 8, 2018.
Down 23 late in the third period, the Clippers closed to 117-113 on Amir Coffey’s layup with 33 seconds remaining. Butler hit four foul shots on Miami’s final two possessions to secure the win. He converted all 16 of his free-throw attempts.
Luke Kennard scored 23 points for the Clippers, including 16 in the fourth quarter.
HAWKS 108, CELTICS 92
ATLANTA (AP) – John Collins and Trae Young each scored 21 points and Atlanta beat Boston for its sixth straight victory.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 19 points, and Danilo Gallinari had 14 on 5-for-5 shooting from the field. The Hawks shot 46.1%, compared to 34.9% for the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown had 26 points and 12 rebounds for Boston. Jayson Tatum scored 20 points.
TRAIL BLAZERS 125, ROCKETS 110
HOUSTON (AP) – Anfernee Simons scored 27 points, CJ McCollum had 26 and Portland handed Houston its franchise-record 10th straight home loss.
Jusuf Nurkic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for Portland, and Norman Powell finished with 16 points.
It was Houston’s third straight loss overall. According to STATS, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to drop 10 straight home games by nine or more points.
Christian Wood and Garrison Mathews had 21 points apiece for the Rockets. Wood also had 15 rebounds.
PACERS 113, THUNDER 110, OT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Domantas Sabonis had 24 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists and Indiana outlasted Oklahoma City in overtime.
Sabonis had his fifth triple-double of the season and 18th overall.
Justin Holiday added 22 points to help the Pacers snap a three-game losing streak. Indiana had just given up 158 points in a loss to Charlotte in its previous game, a franchise record for points allowed.
Lu Dort scored 27 points, and Josh Giddey added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City’s leading scorer this season, sprained his right ankle early in the third quarter and did not return.
SPURS 131, BULLS 122
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Dejounte Murray had 29 points and 12 assists and the Spurs beat Chicago in DeMar DeRozan’s return to San Antonio/
DeRozan, who spent the previous three seasons with the Spurs, scored 32 points in his first game in San Antonio for the Bulls. Zach LaVine added 30 points, and Nikola Vucevic had 18.
Keldon Johnson added 23 points for San Antonio.
MAGIC 119, PISTONS 103
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Franz Wagner scored 24 points and outplayed fellow rookie Cade Cunningham and Orlando beat Detroit in a matchup of the NBA’s worst teams.
The Magic improved to 10-40, two games behind the Pistons.
Cunningham missed his first 11 shots and finished with eight points on 3-of-17 shooting. Trey Lyles scored 18 points for Detroit.