NBA regular season

Devin Booker helps Suns overcome Pelicans

Devin Booker helps Suns overcome Pelicans

TAKE CHARGE. Suns star Devin Booker tries to get past the double-team of Pelicans forward Garrett Temple and guard Josh Hart.

Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Suns overcome the absence of several key players and head coach Monty Williams

Devin Booker fired 33 points and Chris Paul had a double-double as the short-handed Phoenix Suns defeated the host New Orleans Pelicans, 123-110, on Tuesday night, January 4 (Wednesday, January 5, Manila time).

Paul had 11 points and 15 assists, Mikal Bridges scored 23, Cameron Johnson added 18, Bismack Biyombo had 16, and Jalen Smith had 12.

The Suns overcame the absence of head coach Monty Williams, starters Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder, and backups JaVale McGee and Abdel Nader, all of whom were in the health and safety protocols.

Devonte’ Graham scored 28, Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Brandon Ingram scored 16, and Josh Hart had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans.

The Suns held a double-digit lead for much of the first half, but Graham’s three-pointer pulled New Orleans within 67-61 early in the third quarter.

Booker’s three-pointer expanded the lead to 13, but the Pelicans crept within five on a dunk by Herbert Jones.

Paul had two baskets and two assists to help Phoenix rebuild the lead to 88-73.

Jones had 5 points as New Orleans got within 95-84 at the end of the quarter.

Graham made a three-pointer and Ingram had two baskets to get the Pelicans within four, but Bridges answered with a basket and a triple.

Two more three-pointers by Graham got New Orleans within two points, but Paul assisted on consecutive baskets by Biyombo and the Suns took a 109-101 lead and pulled away.

The hot-shooting Suns raced to a pair of 11-point leads during the first half of the first quarter.

Booker’s basket gave them their biggest lead of the period at 40-24, but Nickeil Alexander-Walker made a three-pointer and Jose Alvarado made four free throws to trim the lead to 42-31 at the end of the quarter.

Garrett Temple’s three-pointer helped New Orleans get within 44-40 before Paul had a basket and assisted on consecutive treys by Johnson that gave the Suns a 58-42 lead.

Hart scored 5 points and had an assist as the Pelicans trimmed the deficit to 64-54 at halftime. –