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Scorching Suns

We had the right approach. It wasn’t a pretty win but anytime you can beat a team like that it is a good.

Agence France-Presse

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DEVIN Booker fires 35 points to lift the Phoenix Suns past the Utah Jazz, 117-113. / Michael Gonzales/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Devin Booker did the heavy lifting offensively, scoring 35 points as the Phoenix Suns edged the Utah Jazz, 117-113, in overtime in a Western Conference showdown between the two best teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The Suns not only won their seventh straight game, but the nail-biting victory gives them an important psychological edge over the Jazz as the pandemic-shortened 72-game NBA season nears the final stretch.

“It came down to perseverance,” said Booker of the thrilling match that lived up to its pre-game billing.

“We had the right approach. It wasn’t a pretty win but anytime you can beat a team like that it is already good.”

The second place Suns improved to 36-14 and cut the Jazz’s lead atop the Western Conference to one and a half games. Both teams came into the contest having won nine of their last 10.

Chris Paul had 29 points and nine assists and Deandre Ayton finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix, who picked up their second win in two meetings with the Jazz this season.

Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 41 points for the Jazz. Mitchell forced the overtime with a key three pointer late in regulation in front of the crowd of 5,100 at PHX Arena.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 20 points and Rudy Gobert chipped in 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost two in a row on the road.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant scored 17 points in his timely return from injury as the Brooklyn Nets clobbered the New Orleans Pelicans, 139-111, in New York.

It was a perfect shooting night for Durant whose return came after star point guard James Harden went out with a hamstring injury.

Durant liked being thrown into the game after starting the night on the Nets bench.

“It worked out. I wasn’t trying to ease into the game,” Durant, who came off the bench for just the second time in his career, said.

“I knew exactly how I needed to approach it.”

Durant shot five of five from the field, five of five from the free throw line and two of two from beyond the arc as he was one of seven Brooklyn players to reach double figures in front of the pandemic-limited crowd of 1,700 at Barclays Center.

He had missed the past 23 games with a left hamstring injury and hadn’t played since 13 February.

The Nets were 19-4 while he was out.

“It was nice to have him back. It has been a long absence. He had a big smile on his face,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.

Harden is expected to be out for at least 10 days with his hamstring issue.

The Pelicans dug a huge hole by being outscored 43-26 in the second quarter as the Nets cruised from there.

“We got dominated at both ends of the floor. Totally dominated,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said.

“Our defense was absurd.”

Everything went right for the Nets, who led by as many as 38 points.

The Pelicans couldn’t get going offensively, especially Zion Williamson who had his streak of consecutive games with 20-plus points on 50 percent shooting or better snapped at 25 games.

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