The Phoenix Suns led by just seven points with seven minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Devin Booker was ejected for two of the quickest technical fouls in recent memory. Sure, the Los Angeles Lakers were without Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Marc Gasol, but nearly an entire second half loomed against LeBron James, and the Suns were without their leading scorer. But Phoenix was able to hold off L.A. in a 114-104 win despite James going off for an incredible 38 points on 16-of-24 shooting, including 14 fourth-quarter points.
To edge out James, the Suns won by committee. Chris Paul scored eight points on just four shot attempts with 10 assists and five rebounds, Jae Crowder scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, Deandre Ayton scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Mikal Bridges scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and Dario Saric led all Phoenix scorers with 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting off the bench. Heck, even Abdel Nader filled in well for Booker off the bench and knocked down a pair of triples for eight points.
The Suns look and feel every bit a playoff competitor. Paul anchors their play-making, defensive hustle, and leadership, Booker is a scorer who can create angles when they don't look possible, Deandre Ayton holds down the middle, and the team has endless 3-and-D wings to fill the roles in-between. Their roster is working. Coming into Tuesday night, they were outscoring opponents by 6.16 points per 100 possessions, which is the third-best net rating in the league ahead of the Nets, Clippers, Lakers, Sixers, Nuggets, and more. The team now holds the best record in the NBA since January 28th, winning 15 of 18 games. They stand 23-11, good for second in the Western Conference.
The Suns, of course, have a lot more to prove. The season's still young. But this was a nice showing from the Suns' other guys with Booker in the locker room. There's little to critique about the top-7 offensive and defensive team so far.
Now let's talk about all six games from Tuesday night.
Grizzlies 125, Wizards 111
Ja Morant — Morant had his second-highest scoring night of the season, finishing with 35 points to lead the Grizzlies. He sunk 11-of-18 shots including two 3-pointers with 10 assists, five rebounds, one steal, and four turnovers in 33 minutes. His 11 made free-throws on 14 attempts was also a season-high.
De'Anthony Melton — Melton matched his season-high too, scoring 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting (every make was from long range.) He also dished five assists with four rebounds, two steals, and no turnovers in 26 minutes. He's now scored double-digit points in three straight games.
Dillon Brooks — Brooks' 20 points were more than his last two games combined, and included two made 3-pointers. He also added three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Russell Westbrook — Westbrook double-doubled with 23 points and 15 rebounds, and had six rebounds and three steals but ... he also turned the ball over eight times (even egregious for him) and made just 4-of-9 free-throws. You punt those categories if you roster Westbrook, but those marks are too poor to ignore even with that in consideration.
Bradley Beal — Beal had a lackluster night, scoring 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting with only one 3-pointer. He had six boards and five assists but also turned the ball over six times, which matched a season-high.
Celtics 117, Clippers 112
Paul George — With Leonard sidelined, George did everything for L.A. He scored 32 points on 12-of-26 shooting with five made 3-pointers, five rebounds, four assists, and one steal. He only turned the ball over twice in 39 minutes.
Reggie Jackson — Jackson was on fire all night, scoring a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and five made 3-pointers, which were his best marks of the season, too. He added seven assists, three rebounds, and three turnovers in 37 minutes.
Kemba Walker — Walker shot terrifically, making six 3-point shots on 12 tries for 25 points. He also added six assists, four rebounds, and just one turnover in 34 minutes. He's getting better as the season goes on.
Jaylen Brown — Brown only scored 18 points, but he made 8-of-14 shots and a pair of 3-pointers with five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and just one turnover.
Kawhi Leonard — Leonard was a late scratch due to back spasms and did not play.
Luke Kennard — Kennard played just five minutes all game after playing eight combined in the two games before. It's safe to say he's out of the rotation for now.
Hawks 94, Heat 80
John Collins — Collins had a nice night, scoring 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting including one 3-pointer and 4-of-5 free-throws. He also added seven rebounds and an assist, though he recorded no defensive stats.
Duncan Robinson — He made 5-of-11 shots for 14 points but four of them came from 3-point range, and he added a block to go along with his rebound and assist.
Goran Dragic — In such a low-scoring game, the stats weren't overwhelming in the box score, but Dragic scored 14 on 5-of-11 shooting too, and he added four assists, three rebounds, a block, and a steal.
Trae Young — In his first game with a new head coach, Young scored 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting (four made 3-pointers) and dished 10 assists. He also had three rebounds and a steal, but he turned the ball over an ugly eight times. That matched his season-high.
Bogdan Bogdanovic — Bogdanovic returned to play his first game in two months after suffering from a right knee avulsion fracture. In 16 minutes, he scored five points on 2-of-5 shooting (one 3-pointer) with four assists and two rebounds.
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Spurs 119, Knicks 93
Immanuel Quickley — The Quickley we all rallied behind in January was back on Tuesday, scoring 26 points in 29 minutes off the bench. He shot just 8-of-21 from the field, but made six 3-pointers and added four assists, four rebounds, one steal, and just two turnovers.
DeMar DeRozan — He only scored 10 points but it came on 2-of-5 shooting (6-of-6 free-throw shooting) with 11 assists, four rebounds, and four steals. He also had no turnovers in 30 minutes.
Dejounte Murray — Murray scored 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting including three, 3-pointers. He also added six assists, six rebounds, and three steals with just one turnover in 31 minutes.
Julius Randle — It wasn't his best night, but Randle still scored 14 points (one 3-pointer) with 11 rebounds, five assists, and a block.
Nerlens Noel — Noel's streak of two or more blocks has reached its seventh consecutive game. He sent three shots flying and scored four points with 12 rebounds and two assists.
Nuggets 128, Bucks 97
Nikola Jokic — The MVP run continues. He scored 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting (two 3-pointers) with 11 assists, 10 rebounds, two steals, and just two turnovers in 36 minutes.
Jamal Murray — Murray was also incredibly accurate on Tuesday night, scoring 10-of-17 shots for 24 points (though just one 3-pointer.) He also added six assists, three rebounds, two steals, and just one turnover in 38 minutes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo — The Bucks got blown out, but it wasn't all Giannis's fault. He scored 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting including 7-of-10 free-throws. He also added eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal with three turnovers in 33 minutes.
P.J. Dozier — With so many Nuggets players sidelined through the All-Star Game, Dozier got a ton of run and made the most of it. In 23 minutes, he made 8-of-17 shots for 19 points (two made 3-pointers) with two rebounds, one assist, and no turnovers.
Khris Middleton — Middleton had a nice night scoring 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting with three 3-pointers. He also added six assists, four rebounds, and one steal.
Suns 114, Lakers 104
LeBron James — LeBron was awesome on Tuesday, scoring 38 points on 16-of-24 shooting including three made 3-pointers with six assists, five rebounds, two blocks, one steal, and just two turnovers in 38 minutes.
Dario Saric — In 26 minutes off the bench, Saric led the Suns with 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting with five rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
Mikal Bridges — Bridges scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting including three 3-pointers with six rebounds and five assists.
Jae Crowder — Crowder scored 15 points on four made 3-pointers with four rebounds, one assist, and two steals.
Alex Caruso — Caruso left late in the fourth quarter due to neck spasms after taking a hit to the face on a drive to the rim.