EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Inspired Booker performance not enough for Suns to beat Spurs

Jan 29, 2019, 9:09 PM | Updated: 9:10 pm
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives against San Antonio Spurs' Marco Belinelli during the first h...

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives against San Antonio Spurs' Marco Belinelli during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Without the injured Deandre Ayton, De’Anthony Melton and T.J. Warren, the Phoenix Suns are going to need a tip-top performance out of Devin Booker to win.

They got that on Tuesday night and it still wasn’t enough to beat the San Antonio Spurs.

The Suns lost 126-124 despite Booker posting his best performance of the season. He tied his season-high in scoring with 38 points, added five rebounds, seven assists and two steals all while shooting 14-of-19 from the field. Booker’s 38 on 73.6 percent shooting is only the fifth time this season an NBA player has scored at least 38 points on 70 percent shooting or better, per Basketball-Reference.

On top of that, the Suns got 22 from Jamal Crawford plus seven assists and an additional 17 out of Mikal Bridges, a much-needed additional scoring punch without Ayton and Warren.

The Suns, though, couldn’t get enough stops to catch up in the second half once the Spurs took control of the game, even with the Spurs missing DeMar DeRozan.

When Phoenix finally tied the game off a steal with under 20 seconds left, the Spurs’ Rudy Gay scored at the buzzer to beat the Suns.

After some sluggish performances in the month, it looked like Booker has his mojo back on both ends of the floor.

Booker has struggled the most this season with his three-point shooting, particularly off-the-dribble, a weapon that elevates scorers to the next level.

He had it in his locker for his first three years, but it’s been a struggle for him this season.

So when Booker scored 16 points in the first quarter that included a smooth pull-up to end it, it was a strong indicator it was going to be a good night for the 22-year-old.

The score was all tied at 33 after that first quarter and a huge second quarter from Crawford kept the Suns afloat while Booker rested.

Crawford scored nine points, dished out two assists and was responsible for 12 straight Suns points before Booker checked back in midway through the second. Phoenix went into halftime down 70-67.

Booker came out in the second half and scored 14 points in the third. The Spurs, however, would go on a 14-2 run with Booker still in the game to take what was a close game throughout and make it a 12-point advantage.

Even after a 9-2 run to end the quarter by the Suns, they trailed by seven with 9:10 left in the fourth when Booker returned.

As was the story for the whole game, the Suns couldn’t stop the Spurs when they needed to in order to catch up in the fourth quarter despite playing well offensively.

Key baskets from Booker, Bridges and Crawford kept the Suns close, but the Spurs always had an answer, including Gay’s with no time remaining.

The loss for the Suns made it 16 defeats in their last 18 games and put their record on the year at 11-42. That’s the second-worst record in the NBA behind the 10-39 New York Knicks.

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