Devin Booker had 36 points and 12 assists, Kevin Durant also scored 36 points and the Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets 129-124 on Sunday to even their Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
Backup guard Landry Shamet hit four crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Suns ahead. Denver lost despite a great game from MVP runner-up Nikola Jokic, who scored 53 points on 20-of-30 shooting.
Jokic used his physical play to knock down several big buckets, even ripping the ball off Suns owner Mat Ishbia at one point after the ball went out of bounds, earning the All-Star a technical foul from the nuggets.
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The series returns to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday.
The Suns took a 98-92 lead going into the fourth quarter after a scoring drive by Booker, who had 17 points in the third. Phoenix wasn’t far behind in the fourth, though Denver didn’t go quietly.
The Nuggets trailed 116-106 with 4:55 remaining, but they never panicked, slowly taking the lead. They pulled within 123-120 with 22.4 seconds left, but TJ Warren hit two free throws to bring the margin to five.
Booker, who averaged 36 points on 60% shooting in these playoffs, was hot once again, shooting 14 of 18 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers. Shamet finished with 19 points, shooting 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.
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Jamal Murray added 28 points and seven assists for the Nuggets.
Suns point guard Chris Paul missed his second straight game with a left groin strain suffered during Game 2.
The Suns took a 63-61 halftime lead. Jokic had 24 points for the Nuggets before the break, while Durant had 21 for the Suns.
JOKIC VS ISHBIA
Jokic received a technical foul in the second after a bizarre altercation with Ishbia.
Late in the period, Suns guard Josh Okogie crashed into the seats while trying to save a fumble. He landed in a group of fans on the baseline that included Ishbia, who grabbed the basketball.
Jokic was trying to get the ball quickly, ostensibly so the Nuggets could start their offensive possession, when he tried to take the ball from Ishbia. The ball flew back through the crowd, and then Ishbia was dropped by Jokic’s elbow.
There were a few minutes of confusion as officials sorted out the bizarre scene, and then Jokic was awarded a technical foul.
Ishbia told The Associated Press at halftime that he was «fine» and more concerned with the game than the altercation. He returned to their regular seats in the second half.
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THE GREAT OVATION OF AYTON
Suns center Deandre Ayton was the subject of scorn by the media and fans following his lackluster performance in Game 3.
Ayton had just four points and nine rebounds in Game 3 and the former No. 1 overall pick was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Jock Landale.
But the big man got the fans back on his side during the first offensive possession of the night, grabbing three straight offensive rebounds before Booker hit a short jumper as the crowd roared. Ayton finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
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Nuggets: Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. each scored 11 points.
Suns: Booker scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter. He scored 18 points in the first quarter of Game 3.