PHOENIX (AP) — Nights when star Devin Booker is off his game don’t often spell victories for the struggling Phoenix Suns. But Booker was still a factor Wednesday night, and his teammates picked him up.
T.J. Warren scored 16 of his 27 points in the first half and the Suns built a big lead, almost lost it and then pulled away for a 116-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Suns ended a four-game losing streak to improve to 3-11.
“Fifty-point swing since we played them the last time,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said, referring to the Spurs’ 120-90 win Oct. 31. “We have to be pleased with just that fact.”
Deandre Ayton added 17 points and 10 rebounds, including a powerful dunk over Davis Bertans early in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Canaan had 19 points and made all five of his 3-pointers,
Booker had 13 points and a career high 12 assists — though he committed seven turnovers — and the Suns shot a season-high 56 percent.
“I just had to keep making plays for other people,” Booker said. “A lot of laughter and smiles after the game, and that’s the feeling we want around here.”
DeMar DeRozan had 24 points for the Spurs, and Derrick White added 16. They have lost four of five.
“We have been terrible defensively,” DeRozan said. “We didn’t make nothing too uncomfortable for them. They kept their rhythm and pulled away again. We can’t let that happen and it all starts on defense.”
Warren’s short jumper with 6:42 to play gave the Suns a 105-85 lead, and Phoenix was able to close it out comfortably.
The Spurs trailed by one early in the third quarter, but the Suns extended their lead. Warren hit a baseline 3 for a 79-66 lead, and Jamal Crawford knocked one down from the other side of the court with 58 seconds to go, giving the Suns an 82-68 lead. Crawford sank a high-arc 3 with 7.9 seconds left, and the Suns went into the final quarter ahead 87-70.
Crawford scored 10 of his 11 points in the third.
San Antonio’s high-scoring LaMarcus Aldridge made just 3 of 12 shots for six points against frequent double-team defense, though he added 12 rebounds.
“We’re hearing ‘De-fense!’ Love that though. Fans have been waiting for something like that for a while,” Ayton said.
The Suns went ahead by as many as 19 points before the first quarter ended. Warren had 12 points in the period. Canaan’s jumper at the quarter buzzer gave Phoenix a 34-19 lead.
The Spurs rallied in the second quarter but got a scare when DeRozan was fouled hard on a drive and crashed to the floor. He stayed down momentarily but got to his feet, shot free throws and continued to play.
San Antonio cut the Suns’ lead to 43-37 on Patty Mills’ steal and layup with 4:16 left in the first half.
Bryn Forbes’ 3 made it a two-point game before the half, and the Suns’ lead was 52-48 at the intermission. Forbes made 3 of 4 3s in the first half and scored 13 points.
Spurs: F Rudy Gay was rested and did not play. ... C Pau Gasol missed the game with left foot soreness. He’s been out four games. ... With DeRozan’s 10th made free throw of the game, he passed Crawford for 95th-most in NBA history.
Suns: F Josh Jackson saw extended minutes with Trevor Ariza unavailable, and had an impact with his 14 points and a second-quarter blocked shot his teammates celebrated from the bench. Jackson also threw a lob to Ayton for a dunk just before halftime. ... Rookie De’Anthony Melton played in just his third game of the season.
Suns rookie Mikal Bridges made his first career start Thursday, in at forward for Ariza, who was not with the team due to personal reasons.
“Just bringing in a young guy, young energy, young voice and he is our voice,” Kokoskov said of Bridges.
QUICK POP ON BOOKER
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about Booker before the game, and called him a “wonderful player.”
“He’s somebody who has worked so hard and his skills are so evident that his confidence should be there and he should never doubt anything about what he can accomplish,” Popovich said.
Spurs: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night in the second game of their second back-to-back set of the season.
Suns: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday night.