Suns take down shorthanded Nuggets for 7th straight win
PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Paul made a career-high seven 3-pointers and the Phoenix Suns won their season-best seventh game in a row, holding off the short-handed Denver Nuggets 119-115 on Thursday night.
Kevin Durant added six 3s and led the Suns with 29 points, while Paul scored 25. Durant also had seven rebounds.
Devin Booker made just 3 of 12 shots, but still scored 15 as he was 8 for 8 from the free throw line. Booker also had eight assists, while Deandre Ayton scored 16 points and reserve Torrey Craig had 11.
Paul’s 3-pointer with 3:07 to play made it 114-107, the biggest lead of the night for either team at that point.
Bruce Brown led Denver (52-28), playing without all five starters, with 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Reggie Jackson had 20 points and six assists, while DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Nikola Jokic had missed three games with a calf injury before returning to play 25 minutes in Tuesday’s loss to Houston. He was sidelined again Thursday, as were Aaron Gordon (right shoulder), Michael Porter Jr. (left heel), Jamal Murray (right thumb) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (illness).
The Suns trailed by six at one point in the third quarter, but came back to lead 89-86 entering the fourth.
Phoenix led 56-55 at the break. Durant led the Suns with 11 points. Denver shot 52% to Phoenix’s 46% in the half.
MANAGING THE WORKLOAD
The Nuggets clinched the No. 1 seed in the West on Wednesday when Memphis lost to New Orleans. They’re also dealing with enough injuries that the entire starting five was out Thursday.
Two-time MVP Jokic is averaging 24.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.8 assists.
“We’re just trying to be smart about managing those injuries as we move forward,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game. “Speaking to the players individually and speaking to our training staff, having played 79-80 games to this point, those guys have been dealing with these injuries for a while. We want to be smart about what kind of positions we put them in.”
The Suns also are locked in to the No. 4 seed, but with Durant having so few games with his new Suns teammates, coach Monty Williams is trying to strike a balance with what’s best for everyone entering the postseason.
“I think we have to try to use these games to get guys to a place that we think is comfortable for them,” Williams said. “The conditioning part is something that you have to think about, but I’ve always felt like when you have a week off, it’s hard to keep NBA conditioning and all of that stuff, edge, emotions of game day in place throughout the week. We’re just concerned about where we are and try to get guys to a certain capacity.
“Our team is coming up with all kinds of scenarios to allow for us to make good decisions. I want to win every game, but I’m also of the mindset that I want to do what’s best for the guys and best for the team.”
The Suns were without G T.J. Warren (illness). ... Thursday’s crowd of 17,071 at the Footprint Center was the 66th sellout in a row with one regular-season home game remaining. ... Phoenix won three of the four games between the teams this season.
Nuggets: At Utah Saturday.
Suns: At Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. ___
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