Suns rally without Paul, edging Rockets for 7th straight win
PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 24 points, Deandre Ayton added 23 and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to seven games, rallying after Chris Paul was ejected to beat the Houston Rockets 124-121 on Wednesday night.
Phoenix improved to 48-10 heading into the All-Star break. The Suns won despite losing Paul in the third quarter after the star point guard was ejected for arguing and then bumping into an official.
The Rockets fell to 15-42 and have lost six straight. Eric Gordon missed a tightly guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer that could have tied it.
Houston led for a big chunk of the game and took a 95-89 lead into the final quarter, but Phoenix rallied in a hurry.
Torrey Craig’s 3-pointer gave the Suns a 96-95 lead. Aaron Holiday — who was recently acquired in a trade with Washington — followed with another 3-pointer and Mikal Bridges added a fast-break layup for a 101-95 advantage to finish the 12-0 run.
The game stayed tight from that point forward. Bridges made a short jumper in the lane for a 116-114 lead with 1:10 left. After a Houston turnover, Booker airballed a 3-pointer, but Bridges corralled the offensive rebound and made a layup for a 118-114 advantage.
Bridges finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Dennis Schroder led the Rockets with 23 points. Jae’Sean Tate added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Gordon scored 20 points. Houston has lost 10 of its last 11 games.
Houston took a 67-59 lead into halftime. Tate led the Rockets with 16 points and seven rebounds before the break, while Paul led the Suns with 11 points and five assists.
The teams combined for 43 free throws in a foul-filled first half — 22 for the Rockets and 21 for the Suns.
Paul was ejected after two quick technicals in the third quarter. He was angry after getting his right hand jammed on a pass and argued for the first technical.
He then bumped into referee J.T. Orr a few seconds later which appeared to earn the second technical. Paul left the court holding his hand but it was unclear if the injury was serious. There was no immediate update after the game. The 12-time All-Star finished with 11 points and six assists in 19 minutes.
The start of the second half was delayed because the rim on one of the baskets was bent. Suns 7-foot-1 center JaVale McGee hung on the rim a few times to bend it back in place.
A stadium employee climbed a ladder and set a level on the basket to make sure it was OK. Once the officials were satisfied, the game resumed.
Rockets: All five starters scored in double figures. … Alperen Sengun had 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Suns: Booker made a one-handed 90-footer at the end of the first quarter. Unfortunately for Phoenix, it was a few moments after the buzzer. … Hosted a sellout crowd for a 16th straight game.
Rockets: At Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
Suns: At Oklahoma City om Thursday, Feb. 24.
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