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Booker, Warren explode for combined 70 in Suns’ win over T-Wolves

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives on Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson in the second half during an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov 11, 2017, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 118-110. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — When Devin Booker and T.J. Warren are both rolling, the Phoenix Suns are going to have a good chance at beating any team in the NBA.

That was the case Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, when the two combined for 70 points in a thrilling 118-110 win.

Booker finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists while shooting 13-of-22 from the field. Warren matched him on the efficiency, shooting 15-of-22 for 35 points and six rebounds.

It has to be said that Booker put up his monster stat-line while defending Jimmy Butler well a majority of the night. Butler, one of the best all-around players in the game, shot 5-of-17 from the field.

“We know he’s good enough to make plays for other people, he’s good enough to score,” Triano said of his star young player. “I think the biggest thing that we’ve been preaching is how well he defends. Again, tough matchup tonight, and I thought he did a real good job. He’s been buying in at the defensive end.”

Warren’s 35 is something the Suns desperately need from him as a primary scoring option outside of Booker.

“Well we sat in here and we’ve talked on nights when we haven’t been successful about having somebody else step up and score when Book doesn’t have a good game,” Triano said.

The Suns’ (5-9) scoring duo kept it going all night, on the second game of a back-to-back, no less.

Warren started out with 10 of the Suns’ first 15 points. He finished the first half with 16 and Booker with 17. Booker took care of the second quarter, scoring 12.

They put up even more points in the second half than they did in the first, and the Suns would need it. They turned the ball over 18 times and allowed 19 offensive rebounds.

At both points when the Phoenix bench came in, Minnesota (7-5) would go on a run. With three high-level offensive players in Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, head coach Tom Thibodeau would have at least one of them on the court at all times.

That led to the Suns giving up a 19-4 run from the mid-third quarter to the early fourth quarter and suddenly they were down 94-87.

Triano called a timeout and responded by bringing Tyson Chandler, Warren and Booker back in the game. The Suns would close the game on a 31-16 run.

A mini 8-0 run was a big way to start it, capped by a Dragan Bender three-pointer to put the Suns back ahead 95-94.

The defining point in the game came with under five minutes to go. Another spurt would go in favor of the Suns, this time a 14-0 advantage, with Booker and Warren scoring five of the six buckets.

The sixth bucket came via a Marquese Chriss corner three assisted by Booker with under a minute to go, giving the Suns a 111-103 lead and dominant control. Talking Stick Resort Arena exploded when the shot went down, the loudest the arena had been all season.

Speaking of Chriss, he had what was perhaps his best game in a Suns uniform to date. He had 13 points on seven shots, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking five shots.

Chriss’ biggest rejection came with Wiggins looking for one of his signature poster dunks. Chriss knew the drill.

“I wasn’t gonna let him dunk on me,” Chriss said. “We all see highlights. I wasn’t gonna be one of ’em.”

It all comes around to Booker, though, and the extra step (or two, or three) he has taken forward in order to lead the team by example.

“I feel like he’s been maybe our most consistent as far as an effort category, as far of trying to do what coach is preaching out there and really sticking to his defensive principles,” Chandler said.

When the 17-year vet was asked if he would have said that about his 21-year-old teammate last year, he paused, before saying no.

“I think he grew up a lot this summer. Not in a negative way, but last year he didn’t understand certain possessions. He didn’t understand how important it was to get all the way down to the corner, or fight defensively — all of those things that turn into winning.”

An encouraging development for the face of the franchise, to say the least.

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