NBA regular season

Devin Booker erupts for 49 vs Nuggets as Suns clinch top seed

Devin Booker erupts for 49 vs Nuggets as Suns clinch top seed

ON FIRE. Suns superstar Devin Booker drops a double-double.

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Suns put a lock on the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference after a pair of big games from Devin Booker and Chris Paul

Devin Booker pumped in a season-high 49 points and added 10 assists, Chris Paul had 17 points and 13 assists in his return to the lineup, and the visiting Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets, 140-130, to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference on Thursday night, March 24 (Friday, March 25, Manila time).

Mikal Bridges scored 22 points, Deandre Ayton had 16 points, and Jae Crowder finished with 12 for the Suns (60-14), who have won seven straight.

Paul missed 15 games with a fractured thumb and hadn’t played for the Suns since prior to the All-Star break. He did log two minutes in the All-Star Game.

Nikola Jokic led Denver (43-31) with 28 points, Bones Hyland scored 23, Aaron Gordon had 21, Will Barton had 17, Monte Morris scored 15, Jeff Green added 11 and DeMarcus Cousins had 10.

The teams traded leads in a high-scoring first half, with Phoenix leading by five and the Nuggets up by seven at one point.

Hyland did most of the damage for Denver. He scored 19 points off the bench, including 4-for-6 from behind the arc, to help give the Nuggets a 68-66 lead at halftime.

Things stayed close for the first few minutes of the third quarter before Denver created some distance. Barton and Morris hit three-pointers, and Morris was fouled on his jumper and made the free throw for a four-point play and an 85-78 lead.

The Suns got within 89-86, but the Nuggets stretched the lead to 101-92 late in the period. Phoenix came back behind Booker, who scored 10 points in the final 2:52 to cut the deficit to 106-104 heading into the fourth.

Phoenix took the lead when Bridges’ three-pointer made it 110-109, then the Suns started to pull away. Bridges hit a pair of free throws, Booker made a jumper in the lane and Bridges hit another triple to make it 122-114.

Denver got within 124-120 on a three-point play by Gordon with 3:55 left, but Phoenix closed it out. –