Devin Booker scored 35 points, and the Phoenix Suns rolled past the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder, 128-101, on Monday to improve to 6-0 in the Orlando restart and improve their playoff chances.
The Suns have surged in the Western Conference standings. They entered the day just 1½ games behind eighth-place Memphis and a game behind ninth-place Portland in the race to qualify for a spot in the play-in series.
Phoenix center Deandre Ayton sat out the first quarter because he missed his coronavirus test on Sunday. He tested negative Monday and was cleared. With Ayton out, Oklahoma City led, 37-23, at the end of the first quarter. Ayton entered the game at the start of the second quarter, and Phoenix dominated the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes.
Oklahoma City was without four of its top five scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right calf bruise), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle), Dennis Schroder (birth of child), and Steven Adams (bruised left leg) sat out. Reserve center Nerlens Noel (right ankle sprain) also did not play.
Rookie Darius Bazley had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder. Bazley joined Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the only Thunder rookies to score at least 20 points in back-to-back games.
Mavericks storm back to dump Jazz
The shorthanded Dallas Mavericks rallied from a 22-point deficit in the second half to stun the Utah Jazz, 122-114.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Mavericks with 27 points and Seth Curry added 22. Boban Majanovic had 20 points and nine rebounds. It was the biggest comeback for the Mavericks since February 2016 and the win means Dallas still has a slim shot at earning the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Dallas won despite playing without stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, who were both resting because of nagging injuries.
The Mavericks trailed, 78-56, with 10 minutes left in the third quarter after Utah’s Emmanuel Mudiay made a 3-pointer. They slowly rallied throughout the third quarter and then scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter to take a 101-100 lead with about eight minutes left.
Dallas outscored Utah, 34-14, in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks shot 12 of 24 (50 percent) from 3-point range.
Kuzma saves Lakers
Kyle Kuzma hit a 3-pointer with .4 seconds left and the Lakers beat the Nuggets, 124-121, to snap a three-game losing streak.
LeBron James threw an inbounds pass to Anthony Davis, who flipped it to Kuzma on the right wing for the winner as the clock ran down.
The Lakers, outplayed down the stretch by Denver’s bench, got 29 points and 12 assists from James, who hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Davis had 27 points and Kuzma 25.
P.J. Dozier had a chance to put the Nuggets up by one with 4.4 seconds left but missed the second of two free throws. Kuzma rebounded and the Lakers called timeout to set up the winning play.
The Nuggets had clinched the Northwest Division after the Thunder lost to the Suns earlier Monday.
Butler gives Heat a boost
Jimmy Butler returned from a foot injury and scored 19 points, Derrick Jones scored 18 off the Miami bench, and the Heat kept T.J. Warren largely in check on the way to a 114-92 win over the Pacers.
Butler also had 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals as Miami moved a game ahead of Indiana in the race for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Tyler Herro scored 17 while Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder each added 14 for Miami.
Warren scored 12 for Indiana on 5 for 14 shooting in 29 minutes. He came into Monday averaging a bubble-leading 34.8 points per game.
The Heat (44-27) and Pacers (43-28) both have two games left, and sixth-place Philadelphia (42-28) ends its regular season with three games in four days starting Tuesday.
The Heat own the tiebreakers over both Indiana and Philadelphia, so one more Miami victory would lock up a spot in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 series that will start early next week.
The teams play again Friday in the seeding-game finale for both teams and could meet in the opening round of the playoffs that start next week — raising the possibility that Miami and Indiana could face off as many as nine times in a 10-game span.
Stars sit as Raptors down Bucks
Chris Boucher scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help the Raptors defeat the Bucks, 114-106, in a matchup of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, missed the game after undergoing oral surgery. Bucks coach Mike Budehnolzer said Monday it was uncertain whether Antetokounmpo would play in the team’s final two seeding games Tuesday against the Wizards and Thursday against the Grizzlies.
For Toronto, Kyle Lowry sat out with a sore lower back, Serge Ibaka missed the game with a bruised right knee, and Fred VanVleet was out with a hyperextended right knee.
NBA eyes business in Africa
The National Basketball Association has named a top investment banker to develop the sport and its business on the African continent.
Victor Williams, who for the past five years lead corporate and investment banking at Standard Bank Group — the Africa’s largest bank by assets — will become the NBA’s new Africa chief executive officer starting Aug. 17. Williams will be based in Johannesburg, according to a company statement Monday.