Booker scores 35 as Suns beat Wolves 100-98
By Brian Hall
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Devin Booker had the ball, and a defensive switch left him staring at an old friend on the perimeter.
Teammates spread out to give Booker the spacing he needed, and the dynamic guard drove to the hoop before stopping for a step-back jumper over 7-foot Karl-Anthony Towns.
Booker got the best of Towns as the former Kentucky Wildcats tried to make up for their short-handed squads.
Booker had 35 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and the Phoenix Suns stopped a three-game slide by holding off the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 100-98 victory on Saturday.
“I try to find certain games, when to be aggressive, when to not, when to make a play for other people when two are guarding me,” Booker said. “Tonight, I got it going a little bit late.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. added 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who played without starting point guard Ricky Rubio and center Aron Baynes due to injuries.
Phoenix was clinging to a 98-95 lead when Towns missed a hurried 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left from just inside the half-court line. Booker then iced the game with a pair of free throws.
“He’s not afraid of the moment,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “You can take him for granted sometimes. But I don’t. When you have a special player like that, you have to recognize it. I constantly talk to our guys about how he generates a lot of their open looks because of the attention that he draws.”
Phoenix shot a season-low 34.4% from the field but tied a season low with seven turnovers. It also made 24 of 26 foul shots, outscoring Minnesota by 14 from the line.
Towns had 31 points and 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost four of five. Keita Bates-Diop scored a career-high 22 points, and Andrew Wiggins added 21.
“Just didn’t follow our system, we didn’t make shots,” Towns said. “It’s obviously a little hard to get in rhythm when you ain’t making anything. They didn’t go through tonight.”
Booker’s 17 points in the third quarter helped Phoenix regain control after the Wolves tied the game. When Minnesota closed within two in the final minutes, Booker scored in the lane over Towns. Wiggins answered, but Booker was there on the other end for a pair of free throws.
“We ran everything through him on offense tonight,” the Suns’ Frank Kaminsky said. “It was one of those nights you could tell he was being aggressive. Just getting him in actions, trying to get switches, get mismatches. And he was taking advantage of it.”
Minnesota played without Robert Covington (personal reasons), Josh Okogie (left knee soreness), Jake Layman (left toe sprain) and Shabazz Napier (right hamstring strain). It was the second time in four games Okogie has been out with the injury. Layman missed his second straight game.
Treveon Graham was listed as available with a left arm contusion but didn’t play.
“You can say they’re three of our top four defenders, in a way,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said of Covington, Okogie and Graham. “Or maybe our three best. They impact the game with activity, too.”
Suns: Rubio was out of the lineup for the third time in four games with back spasms. Baynes, who has been starting in place of the suspended Deandre Ayton, missed his third straight game with a right hip flexor strain. … Phoenix had 17 assists on 19 made field goals in the first half. The Suns finished with 22 assists on 33 makes. … Oubre is averaging 23.0 points on 45.7% shooting over his last five games. He said after the game that he’s dealing with an illness.
Timberwolves: Towns has made at least three 3-pointers in eight consecutive games, the longest such streak in NBA history by a player listed as a center. He entered the day third in the league in made 3s. … Towns collected his 4,000th career rebound. He joins Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis as the only players with 7,500 points, 4,000 rebounds and 500 blocks at the age of 24 or younger. … Bates-Diop played 37:06 on Saturday. He entered the day with 38 total minutes this season.