NEW ORLEANS -- — Devin Booker explained that his stirring and pivotal sequence of baskets against the New Orleans Pelicans was really just his way of following coaches' instructions on clock management at the end of quarters.
Booker capped his 27-point performance with six points in a 33-second span at the end of the third quarter, and the Phoenix Suns cruised from that point to a 131-115 victory on Tuesday night.
The Pelicans were still within single digits when Booker used a sudden dribble toward the top of the key to draw a foul as he pulled up for a 15-foot jumper that went down as part of a three-point play. After a Pelicans miss, Booker added a decisive transition 3 from 26 feet to give the Suns a 98-85 lead heading to the fourth.
"It’s demoralizing because you're right there, you're looking to get over the hump and then he comes down and hits a couple shots like that,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.
Booker said he was more concerned with making sure the Suns got at least two possessions in the final half-minute of the period.
“More important than making the shot with 33 seconds left was making sure you're taking the shot with 33 seconds, playing the possession game,” Booker said, alluding to the NBA's 24-second shot clock. “We've just been stressing on finishing quarters the right way.”
Booker, who also had eight assists, had played just 30 minutes when Phoenix coach Monty Williams subbed him out to start the fourth and wound up giving him the rest of the night off. JaVale McGee made that decision easier by scoring nine of his 19 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter — including an off-balance tip-in of an alley-oop lob as he was fouled — to help the Suns widen their lead to as many as 23 points.
Mikal Bridges went 4 of 5 from deep and scored 20 for the Suns, whose accurate shooting and ability to capitalize on virtually every Pelicans mistake helped them secure their fourth victory in five games despite star guard Chris Paul's extended absence with his fractured right thumb.
The Suns shot 53% (18 of 34) from 3-point range and converted 17 Pelicans turnovers into 33 points.
The Pelicans turnovers were "a killer against a really good team,” Green said.
Deandre Ayton added 18 points for Phoenix, which shot 55% (49 of 89) overall.
“When they don’t miss a shot, it’s pretty hard," Pelicans forward Jaxson Hayes said. "They’re just hard to match up with.”
Herb Jones scored 22 for the Pelicans, who've lost five of six as they try to hang on to the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.
The Pelicans were as close as 75-74 in the middle of the third quarter, but committed a turnover when they had a chance to take the lead and the Suns proceeded to sieze control. Ayton's layup was followed soon after by Cameron Payne's 25-foot transition 3 and then Booker's final flourish.
Suns: Made all 15 of their free throws. ... Payne, who has been starting in place of Paul, scored 14 points and had eight assists. ... Torrey Craig scored 11 points. ... Reserves combined for 43 points.
Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes scored 16 points, Trey Murhpy III scored 11 points, and Devonte' Graham and Willy Hernangomez each scored 10. ... Allowed 30 points in the first quarter for the sixth straight game. ... Shot 50% (43 of 86) overall but 35% (12 of 34) from 3-point range. ... Missed seven of 24 free throws. ... Scored 13 points off of nine Suns turnovers. ... Went 1/3 during a four-game home stand.
The Suns improved to their league-best record to 55-14 by also improving to 26-6 on the road.
“We just come together, man. It's fun to be a part of,” Booker said. “Just everybody vs. us, just taking that approach to it, just enjoying the road games, just enjoying being the bearer of bad news coming through here. It's something I think that we definitely own.”
Suns: Visit Houston on Wednesday night to wrap up a two-game trip.
Pelicans: Open a three-game road trip at San Antonio on Friday night.