PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker made two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the Phoenix Suns a 118-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.
Booker’s winning foul shots were set up when Portland's Robert Covington was fouled and missed both free throws with 4.4 seconds left, giving the Suns one last chance. Booker was fouled by Norman Powell as he went up for a jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining, and Portland's C.J. McCollum missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer to seal Phoenix’s win.
With the victory, Phoenix moved within a game of Utah for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with two games to play.
Chris Paul led Phoenix with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Mikal Bridges chipped in with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Booker had 18 points but shot just 5 of 17 from the field.
Damian Lillard scored a game-high 41 points on 16-of-23 shooting for Portland, which had its five-game winning streak stopped. McCollum had 27 points.
The Trail Blazers, who were playing the second of a back-to-back after beating Utah on Wednesday night, dropped into the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, a half-game back of Dallas with two games to play.
The Suns, who had lost three of four coming in, avoided their first three-game skid of the season.
Phoenix played without center Deandre Ayton, who missed his first game of the season with a sore left knee. Suns coach Monty Williams declined to provide any details about Ayton’s injury before the game, saying only that he “came in sore today. The Suns started Dario Saric in Ayton’s place.
The Suns turned what had been a tight game into an 85-77 lead heading into the fourth quarter, thanks to reserve forward Torrey Craig, who scored 10 points in the final 2:07 of the third quarter. Craig hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark the run.
Backup point guard Cam Payne scored 21 points for the Suns, including 11 in the third quarter.
Portland and Phoenix couldn’t get any separation in the first half; there were 16 lead changes and the biggest lead was four points by each team.
Blazers: Forward Nassir Little was out with back spasms. ... McCollum and Lillard combined for 35 points and eight assists in the first half.
Suns: In addition to Ayton not being available, Phoenix was without forwards Cam Johnson (wrist) and Abdel Nader (knee). ... The Suns need one win to reach the 50-win mark for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.
Blazers: Return home to host the Nuggets on Sunday
Suns: Travel to face the Spurs on Saturday and Sunday to close the regular season.
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Scott Bordow, The Associated Press