PHOENIX — The All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker is starting to get comfortable for the Phoenix Suns. Now they're beating good teams, piling up wins and rising quickly in the Western Conference.
Booker scored 30 points, Paul added 28 points and seven assists and the Suns extended their winning streak to four games by rallying to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 125-124 on Wednesday night.
Booker and Paul combined for 15 points in a tight fourth quarter.
"It's tough for other teams," Paul said. "You don't know what to take away. Most teams have one primary defender so who you gonna put him on? Me or Book? We're learning to play off of each other."
Milwaukee had its five-game winning streak snapped despite getting a season-high 47 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks had a chance to win on the final possession, but Antetokounmpo missed a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer.
"To get it to Giannis, to be at the top of the key with the court spread, you attack or get a shot," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He got a pretty good look."
The Suns have won seven of eight and have a 15-9 record.
Phoenix struggled to slow the Bucks' offense, especially in the first three quarters. Milwaukee has scored at least 120 points in every game over their past six. Antetokounmpo made 15 of 23 shots from the field, including 15 of 19 from inside the arc, finishing all night on layups and dunks.
The Suns took their first lead of the second half at 104-101 when Paul made a 3-pointer with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Frank Kaminsky made another long ball less than a minute later to push the Suns ahead 107-101, as the former Badgers star finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Booker made a step back 3-pointer with 2:30 left to put the Suns up 124-116 but the Bucks pulled to 124-122 with a minute left on Khris Middleton's corner 3. Antetokounmpo flushed a dunk on the next possession to tie it at 124 with 50 seconds left.
Booker made a free throw with 32 seconds left that proved to be the difference.
"It's a big win for us," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "We don't take wins like this for granted."
The teams fought to a 32-all tie in the first quarter before the Bucks caught fire from 3-point range and scored 39 points in the second. Milwaukee took a 71-59 lead into the break after shooting 13 of 24 (54%) from long range.
Bryn Forbes and Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 17 points each. Forbes — who was making just his second start of the season — made 5 of 6 3-pointers.
Holiday still out
Bucks guard Jrue Holiday missed a second straight game because of the league's health and safety protocols. Coach Mike Budenholzer said he's been in touch with Holiday while he's been out.
"Spoke with Jrue a lot over the past few days," Budenholzer said. "He's in a good place and he's taking care of himself, but he has an eye on the team too."
Holiday started the season's first 23 games and is averaging 16.4 points.
The NBA said one player tested positive for coronavirus in the past week, meaning only two have gotten that diagnosis in the last three weeks.
The total for the season in the NBA is up to 92, but of those, 48 — or 52% — tested positive in November, before training camps officially opened. The NBA reported one positive test for the weekly period ending Jan. 26, and no positive tests for the period ending Feb. 3.
The NBA does not reveal which players test positive for COVID-19, but Middleton said earlier this week that Holiday tested positive for the virus. That would make Holiday the one player in the NBA's Wednesday announcement.
Holiday is listed on the Bucks' injury report for a virus-related issue, but those do not specify whether a player has tested positive or has been ordered to sit out because contact tracing found potential of exposure to another COVID-19 positive person.
"This is nothing to play around with and once he tested positive, you immediately think about his health, his safety and his family back home," Middleton said. "He has little kids, too, that he has to worry about."
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns — who has missed 13 games — tested positive last month and his recovery is complete. The Timberwolves had Towns back in the starting lineup Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Towns made the decision after going through a pregame workout to evaluate his readiness.
"Underlying conditions and Covid don't mix well," Towns tweeted on Wednesday. Towns has lost seven relatives to COVID-19, including his mother.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he understands both sides of the debate on playing the national anthem before sporting events, but said he "enjoys" the song during the pregame.
The Suns have played the anthem at all home games this season, even when fans weren't in attendance.
"I've also experienced the anthem in the World Cup and the Olympics, which was one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of, was hearing our anthem in a foreign country before you compete or at the end when you win," Williams said. "So for me, as much as I can appreciate both sides of the coin, it does hold a special place in my heart because of what I've experienced."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the NBA made news earlier this week when reports surfaced that the anthem hadn't been played at the team's first 11 home games.
Cuban relented Wednesday and the anthem will be played before home games this season after the NBA reiterated its "longstanding league policy" to include the song.
Backup forward Bobby Portis had 10 points and nine rebounds in the first half. ... Antetokounmpo made 17 free throws, which was easily a season high. He also shot 17 of 21 on his free throws, which is much higher than his 61% season average. ... The Bucks continue their road trip at Utah on Friday.
Social media buzzing after Giannis Antetokounmpo announces 5-year extension with Milwaukee Bucks
Light it up, light it up
Putting in work
Worth a 1,000 words
Just look at those moves!
Sure we have Rodgers, Braun and Yelich but man Giannis means everything and more to this state. He revitalized the city and brought life back into a dead end. We will forever be grateful for your presence. Now let’s get this ring #The414Way #TheGiannisWay 😤 https://t.co/0CIRV7G0Cy— O’ Sheehan Jr. (@misheehan68) December 15, 2020
How does Giannis signing the supermax impact the rest of the NBA? Also: @DarthAmin and I beg everyone to stop saying this is a victory for small-market teams, or proof the supermax works. This is proof that having a well-run, competitive organization works. Not bribes. pic.twitter.com/DL29clANJL— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 15, 2020
Not far off
Cry me a river
On his own terms
It's a Greek thing
An expert opinion
She's got a point
Ladies, if he didn't message to see how happy/excited you are that Giannis signed the supermax, then he isn't the one for you.— Alysa Z - Bango's Side Doe (@alysaz23) December 15, 2020
Turn back time
This is wild to go back in the time machine & read. For everyone who put into the NBA Karma bank in those old days & refused to give up. This afternoon had a little bit to give back to you. But seriously - Never Give up on your @bucks https://t.co/7S1AAyt85d— Andy Gorzalski (@AndyGorzalski) December 15, 2020
Making Dad proud
For as much as I enjoy what he’s done on a basketball court, this part of the Giannis story has always been what’s resonated most with me. It’s why I genuinely like the Antetokounmpo family. I only wish their dad were around to see what his boys have accomplished. https://t.co/xFEWf4TH5h— William®️🧐 (@MiltownBucky) December 15, 2020
Worth every penny— Vince Biegel (@VinceBiegel) December 15, 2020
Sending a statement
It’s such a relief that these Giannis rumors can finally be put to bed. It’s great that a small market was able to fend off the vultures & keep a marquee attraction. It’s even better that an MVP sees value in staying with the first organization to believe in him & let him shine.— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) December 15, 2020