The Indiana Pacers almost blew a 20-point second-half lead Tuesday night in Phoenix. In the end, the deficit was too large for the struggling and short-handed Suns to close and the Pacers won 97-94.
Former University of Kentucky star Devin Booker had a career-high 32 points for the Suns, who lost for the 14th time in 15 games and fifth in a row. Fellow former Wildcats Brandon Knight and Archie Goodwin added 21 and eight points, respectively.
Booker, a rookie, became the third-youngest player in NBA history at age 19 years and 81 days to record a 30-point game. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the only two players who were younger than Booker to score 30 in a game, and Booker achieved the highest point total in a game for a rookie in the NBA this season.
“I’m getting a lot of time out there and getting that opportunity so I’m learning the game every day,” Booker said.
Booker also set a Suns rookie record with six three-pointers, breaking a mark shared by Casey Jacobson and Wesley Person.
“Just playing against their best two-guard every night, I take pride in that,” Booker told The Arizona Republic after his 12th start. “I feel like every night I have something to prove.”
Booker’s defense was what Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek focused on after the game.
“He’s going to score points in this league. I was much happier with his defense tonight,” Hornacek told ArizonaSports.com. “Don’t always be the nail. Hammer into somebody once and let them take the brunt of the blow, and he did that a few times. He made some strides defensively. When you play well defensively I think it does help your offense. You’re into the game.”
Monta Ellis scored 20 points, Paul George had 19 and Indiana ended a three-game losing streak.
▪ Suns starter Markieff Morris strained his right shoulder on a dunk attempt before halftime and did not play in the second half. He was replaced by Mirza Teletovic, but Teletovic twisted an ankle in the third quarter and did not return.
That gave extended minutes to Alex Len and P.J. Tucker, who had to play power forward, and also some time for seldom-used Sonny Weems.
“It is what it is, it’s a part of the league,” Tucker said. “There’s no excuse. We’ve got five guys that can play, we’ve got to out and play together and play hard.”