Booker, Warren score 35 apiece, Suns beat Timberwolves
PHOENIX (AP) — The two players counted on most by the young Phoenix Suns both had their game in high gear on Saturday night.
The result was an end to the Suns’ five-game losing streak.
Devin Booker and T.J. Warren scored 35 points apiece and the Suns pulled away over the final four minutes to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-110.
“When they’re both rolling, it’s going to be a good night for us,” Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said.
Booker scored nine in the Suns’ decisive 21-7 run over the final 3:50. Just past his 21st birthday, Booker loves to have the ball down the stretch of a close one.
“Winning time, that’s what we called it at Kentucky,” he said, “time to lock in defensively, help each other out. And we did that.”
Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau called Booker and Warren “tough matchups.”
“We’ve got to give the appropriate help, step behind them,” he said, “and you can’t give guys like that room, and we did.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points and Jimmy Butler had 25 in Minnesota’s second straight loss after a five-game winning streak.
“We scored, we just couldn’t stop them,” Thibodeau said. “We just kept on trading buckets. Then we got the lead, then we gave it away.”
In a back-and-forth second half, Phoenix took control with a late 14-0 burst.
Booker scored seven points in the streak and capped the outburst with a pass to Marquese Chriss, who sank a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Suns a 111-103 lead with 51.2 seconds to go.
Booker scored just nine points of 3-of-10 shooting in Phoenix’s loss to Orlando on Friday night but came back strong.
“He is such a gifted player,” Triano said. “We’re just trying to create different ways for him to have the ball. We know he’s good enough to make plays for other people, he’s good enough to score. I think the biggest thing that we’ve been preaching is how well he defends.”
Chriss was the only other Phoenix scorer in double figures with 13 and blocked five shots. His most memorable block came on Wiggins’ dunk attempt midway through the fourth quarter.
“It kind of sticks in people’s heads,” Chriss said of the impact of his shot-blocking ability. “It’s not going to be an easy layup this time.”
A 19-4 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth gave the Timberwolves a 94-87 lead on Shabazz Muhammad’s basket with 9:47 to play. But the Suns scored the next 10 to go up 97-94 after Warren’s 17-footer with 6:53 left.
Minnesota responded with a 9-0 spurt and Jeff Teague’s 3-pointer put the Timberwolves up 103-97 with 4:46 to go. Minnesota went four minutes before its next score.
Neither team had a double-digit lead all night with the Timberwolves, who never trailed in the first half, up 60-57 at the break.
Chriss sank a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half to tie it at 61 and, after Chriss’ block of Karl Anthony-Townes’ shot led to Warren’s breakaway dunk, Phoenix led 83-75 with 4:06 to play in the third.
Minnesota called a timeout, then went on a 13-2 run to end the quarter to lead 88-85 entering the fourth.
Anthony-Towns and Booker are friends and former teammates at Kentucky. They also are the top two scorers out of the 2010 draft. It’s one of four draft classes in NBA history where the top two scorers were college teammates. Towns had 17 points and 12 rebounds on Saturday.
Towns was not surprised by Booker’s late-game heroics.
“We knew he was going to come aggressive after last night,” Towns said, “and he was hitting shots. That’s what he does.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota hadn’t played since a loss at Golden State on Wednesday while Phoenix was playing on back-to-back nights. ... The Timberwolves swept the three-game series with Phoenix last season. ... Minnesota lost despite a 19-7 advantage on the offensive boards.
Suns: Tyson Chandler played after missing the previous two games with back spasms. ... Phoenix improved to 1-3 on a season-long six-game homestand. ... Tyler Ulis started at point guard for first time this season, replacing Mike James.
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