Paul is back, Suns clinch top seed with 140-130 win in Denver – KGET 17
DENVER (AP) — Chris Paul returned from a broken right wrist to help the Phoenix Suns wrap up the top seed in the NBA playoffs with a 140-130 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
Devin Booker led Phoenix with a season-high 49 points and Paul had 17 points — including 15 after halftime — and 13 assists in the Suns’ seventh straight win.
The Suns, who have won 11 of 15 games while their 12-time All-Star point guard was out, lead the NBA with a 60-14 record and are trying to reach the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season after having lost to Milwaukee last year.
The Nuggets got 28 points from Nikola Jokic, 23 from rookie Bones Hyland and 21 from Aaron Gordon. They shot 59.3% from the floor, but Phoenix was even hotter, hitting a 60.5% clip.
Mikai Bridges added 22 points for the Suns, who trailed by nine points early on but took the lead for good on Bridges’ field goal that made it 115-114 midway through the final quarter.
Booker was 16 of 25 from the field, while Bridges was 8 of 9. Booker, Bridges and Deandre Ayton played well in Paul’s absence and Ayton had a career-high 35 points Wednesday night in a win back in Minnesota. He turned 16 Thursday night.
Paul returned about five weeks after breaking his right thumb in a game against Houston on Feb. 16, just before the All-Star break.
“It’s good to have him back,” Suns coach Monty Williams said about an hour before the tip. “He’s worked diligently not only to come back, but also to play at the level he wants to play. I’m sure the guys are fired up.
“I knew he was close to coming back and I was just hoping it wouldn’t be tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said as Paul warmed up in an empty Ball Arena.
The Suns feared Paul would miss the rest of the regular season with the thumb injury, but the veteran has been active in recent practices in an effort to return.
With a nine-game lead over second-place Memphis with eight games left for both teams, the Suns wrapped up the best NBA and home-court record throughout the playoffs.
Hyland scored 19 points in the first half and sank 5 of 7 long-range jumpers, surpassing Jamal Murray’s rookie record of 115 3-pointers in a season along the way, and the Nuggets took a 68-point lead. -66 in the locker room on Jeff Green. 3 points.
Booker had 24 points at the break.
Suns: Won a season seven record straight away at home to improve their best NBA record on the road to 30-6. Phoenix got off to a slow start, falling 9-2, but Paul’s first field goal tied it at 15 at 6:33. … Booker badly fouled Hyland on a shot that didn’t whistle, then was fouled at the other end on a 3-point try. He made all three foul shots as boos rang out from the crowd.
Nuggets: Hyland missed a pair of free throws before scoring the Nuggets’ final 10 points in the first quarter. This included a 3-point game and a three-point game. … His rushing jumper after losing the handle whistled just as the third-quarter buzzer went off, giving Denver a 106-104 lead.
In his first comments since announcing his multi-year contract extension this week, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: “It’s so empowering when you have the property to keep believing in yourself. Obviously, seven years in the same place in a life in this trade. And to know that we have work to do and that we will be here a little longer. is really, really exciting for me and my family.
Suns: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.
Nuggets: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
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