Devin Booker’s late FTs lift Suns over Blazers
Devin Booker made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left as the Phoenix Suns edged the Portland Trail Blazers 118-117 on Thursday night.
Chris Paul recorded 26 points and seven assists and Mikal Bridges added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns (49-21), who moved one game behind the Utah Jazz in the battle for the Western Conference’s top seed.
Damian Lillard scored 24 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter for the Trail Blazers, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and failed to clinch a main-draw playoff spot.
Portland (41-30) is in sixth place in the West, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in its bid to stay out of the play-in round.
CJ McCollum added 27 points for Portland. Lillard scored at least 30 points for the seventh straight game.
Cameron Payne scored 21 points and Booker added 18 for the Suns. Phoenix center Deandre Ayton (knee) missed a game for the first time this season.
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Portland took its first lead of the final quarter when Robert Covington made two free throws with 1:13 to play. Dario Saric missed three of four throws to leave the Suns behind by one before Lillard drove for a basket to give the Trail Blazers a 117-114 lead with 34.7 seconds remaining.
Bridges hit two free throws to bring Phoenix within one with 32 seconds left. Lillard missed a 3-point attempt with 9.6 seconds left, but the Suns’ next possession was halted when Carmelo Anthony forced Booker to double dribble with 5.6 seconds to play.
Covington missed two free throws with five seconds left prior to Booker being fouled by Norman Powell and hitting the winning free throws.
McCollum’s last-ditch 3-point attempt caromed off the rim.
Covington scored 16 points and Powell added 12 for Portland, which connected on 54.3 percent of its shots, including 15 of 33 (45.5 percent) from behind the arc.
Saric scored 12 points and Jae Crowder and Torrey Craig added 10 apiece for the Suns, who shot 46.6 percent from the field and made 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) from 3-point range.
Payne scored 11 points — making three 3-pointers — in the first 4:28 of the fourth quarter as the Suns built a 101-92 lead.
Covington drained two 3-pointers over the next 3 1/2 minutes as Portland rallied to knot the score at 107 with four minutes left.
McCollum scored 20 points and Lillard added 15 as Portland led 53-52 at halftime.