Devin Booker and Kevin Durant combined for 86 points in Game 3 as the Phoenix Suns got back into the Western Conference semifinals.
But the star duo could use some help on Sunday night when the Suns attempt to even the best-of-seven series against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.
Booker matched his playoff career high with 47 points on remarkable 20-of-25 shooting. Durant wasn’t nearly as efficient as he was 12 of 31 while scoring 39 points.
Booker was the showstopper by scoring 45 or more points for the third time in eight games this postseason. He set the tone with 27 first-half points as Phoenix built a 15-point lead at the break en route to the 121-114 home victory.
The fourth-seeded Suns brought a high level of intensity from the outset, knowing full well that being down 3-0 to the Nuggets would leave them in a precarious position.
Booker and Durant were intent on keeping that from occurring.
Durant did most of his damage from the free-throw line, making 14 of 16 attempts.
No other Phoenix player scored more than seven points. Center Deandre Ayton had four points in 26 minutes and was on the bench when the Suns were trying to close out the win.
Suns point guard Chris Paul (groin) sat out Friday and also is expected to miss Game 4.
Denver would like to bounce back and set up a clinching scenario at home for Game 5.
Jamal Murray scored 32 points in Game 3 and Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 17 rebounds and a personal playoff-career-high 17 assists. It was Jokic’s ninth career playoff triple-double.
Jokic is averaging 31 points, 17.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the series.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone made it clear that his club’s defense will have to be vastly improved on Sunday. The primary focus will be on defending Booker, who is averaging 36.9 points per game this postseason.
Malone liked the job done on Durant but couldn’t get past how poorly his club dealt with the other Phoenix star.
Murray has two 30-point outings in the series to go with a substandard 10-point outing in Game 2. He was disappointed in his fourth-quarter performance in Game 3 as he had just four points on 1-of-8 shooting.