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Rapid Recap: Birthday Booker leads the Suns past Rockets

The Phoenix Suns are now 5-1

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Sunday night, the Phoenix Suns (5-1) pulled away late from the Houston Rockets (1-6) by a final score of 124-109.

Devin Booker led the way with 30 points on his 26th birthday.

Over the first 30 seconds, Bismack Biyombo — in his first start of the season (Suns went 3-0 in his three starts a season ago), relieving Deandre Ayton, out with a sprained left ankle — blocked two shots, getting the Suns’ defense out to a fast start. The Suns opened on a 15-7 run.

Celebrating his 26th birthday, Devin Booker poured in 11 points over the opening quarter, which the Suns won 29-24.

In the second quarter, the Suns’ old enemy “offensive rebounding” came back. Second-year forward Usman Garuba came off the bench and grabbed 5 rebounds over his first two minutes, including 3 on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, the Suns bench struggled to find boards outside of Jock Landale and Damion Lee. Rockets pulled within 2 with 7:11 left in the half.

Monty Williams responded to Houston’s run by bringing Booker back in for his second quarter stint, and he immediately found back-to-back mid-range buckets. By that point, Booker had 15 points. He was joined in double-figures by Landale, who got his 10th point in his 11th minute.

Shortly after, a Cam Johnson dunk in transition assisted by Booker completed an 11-3 run, putting the Suns up 53-42 with 3:59 remaining in the half.

Suns led 65-56 at the half led by Booker (21 points, 3 assists, 1 steal), Landale (16 points, 6 rebounds), and Chris Paul (6 points on 2-2 shooting, 9 assists).

Early in the third, the Suns starters kept on the onslaught; more buckets from Book, blocks from Biyombo, and dishes from Paul. Rockets, however, got some pull-up jumpers to go, including a nice one from 3rd overall rookie Jabari Smith Jr. from three in transition and in Booker’s face.

Bridges and Johnson both joined the double-figures club as the third wound down, though Bridges did it on 5 shots while it took Johnson 8. Garuba tied the game at 86 with a corner three inside of a minute left, but Booker responded on the other end, getting to the line for the first time all game, reaching 28 points for the first three frames.

A pull-up three by Landry Shamet extended the Suns’ lead after three to 90-86. The three brought Shamet to 8 points on the night, one bucket away from being the second member of the bench to double-figures.

At the 11:05 mark when the Suns led 90-88, Damion Lee successfully baited two Rockets — Kevin Porter Jr. and Garrison Mathews — into technical fouls, and he turned the technical free throws into a 3-point play, taking a 93-88 lead.

Slowly but surely, the Suns took control, punctuated by an elbow jumper from Paul that gave Phoenix a 110-100 lead with 3:37 left. Back-to-back threes by the twins — first Cam, then Mikal — extended the lead out to 15, sealing Phoenix’s 5th win and fourth in a row. 124-109 is the final.

  • Suns bigs stepped up in Ayton’s absence — Biyombo: 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Landale: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block
  • Seven Suns finished in double-figures, led by Birthday Booker’s 30 (14-24 FG)
  • 45 bench points for Suns
  • Ninth game of Paul’s career with 15 assists and 0 turnovers

Suns have another TNT game coming up on Tuesday. It’ll be the first matchup against the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3) with Rudy Gobert, who lost by 9 in San Antonio on Sunday. Plan for a 7 p.m. tip from Footprint Center.

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