Suns rout short-handed Spurs 140-103, keep hope for top seed

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Devin Booker had 27 points and the Phoenix Suns maintained their hope of earning the top spot in the NBA and Western Conference with a 140-103 victory over the short-handed San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

“It was important for us,” Phoenix forward Dario Saric said. “Even the game tomorrow is more important. We need to finish the regular season the right way.”

Phoenix moved within a game of Utah. The Jazz conclude their season Sunday in Sacramento while the Suns close a two-game series in San Antonio. Phoenix swept the season series with Utah.

The Suns were without starting center Deandre Ayton due to an injury but did not rest anyone Saturday as they fight for the top seed after missing the playoffs last season.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to this point,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “And it’s hard asking our guys to rest. They all want to play. I’m just going to do what’s best for the team.”

Keldon Johnson had 18 points to lead San Antonio, which previously clinched 10th in the West and will face either Memphis or Golden State on the road Wednesday.

The Suns never trailed against the Spurs and led by as many as 42 points before San Antonio’s largest crowd of the season. The Spurs honored Tim Duncan’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with a series of video tributes and the unveiling of his Hall of Fame jersey in the rafters of the AT&T Center.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich missed the game to attend Duncan’s induction ceremony. It was the first time Popovich has not served as head coach since a personal matter led to his absence March 3, 2020. Duncan, who was an assistant coach at the time, was head coach in Popovich’s absence that day. Spurs first-year assistant Mitch Johnson filled in as head coach Saturday.

San Antonio was limited to a nine-player roster with DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl all sitting out for rest in addition to injuries to Derrick White, Luka Samanic and Trey Lyles.

Phoenix took advantage quickly, building a double-digit lead in the first four minutes. The advantage swelled to 21 points midway through the second quarter.

“Phoenix was professional in their approach and that was the avalanche,” Mitch Johnson said.

Booker had 14 points in the opening quarter on 6-for-9 shooting and closed the game shooting 10 for 18 in 27 minutes.

The Suns had eight players score at least eight points and were able to sit their starters in the fourth quarter.

“Our guys did a good job contesting shots,” Williams said, “And when we got the rebound, we just got out and ran.”

Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges had 18 points in 26 minutes and Chris Paul added 16 points and 10 assists in 25 minutes.

The Spurs were 4 for 26 on 3-pointers in suffering their third straight loss and ninth defeat in 11 games.

“From the jump ball we had to punch them early,” Saric said.

Gorgui Dieng had 18 points, Drew Eubanks added 15 points and Devin Vassell added 14 for the Spurs.

TIP-INS

Suns: Williams said he would likely sit some players Sunday after opting not to rest anyone Saturday. … Ayton missed his second straight game with a sore left knee. Ayton missed his first game of the season Thursday as the Suns beat the Portland Trail Blazers 118-117. He is averaging 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Suns.

Spurs: Johnson is in his first season as a full-time assistant with the Spurs after serving as an assistant for the team’s G League affiliate. He played for Stanford and three seasons professionally in the G League and Europe. Becky Hammon, Will Hardy and Darius Songaila were Johnson’s assistants. Popovich stated previously that in the event of his absence, the assistant coach that scouted that day’s opponent would be the head coach. … Patty Mills made his first start of the season and 57th of his career. Mills had eight points and five assists for the Spurs.

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