Suns get 52 points from Devin Booker again, best Pelicans

Devin Booker scored 52 points against the New Orleans Pelicans for the second time this season and the visiting Phoenix Suns tightened the Western Conference playoff race with a 124-111 victory on Monday night.

Kevin Durant added 20 points, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and 19 rebounds and Bradley Beal scored 13 points as the Suns (44-31) pulled within one game of the Pelicans (45-30) for sixth place in the Western Conference.

The Suns, who defeated the host Pelicans 123-109 back when Booker first dropped 52 points on Jan. 19, clinched the season series with one game remaining. The teams will meet on Sunday in Phoenix.

Zion Williamson scored 30 points, Trey Murphy III had 21 and CJ McCollum had 15 for New Orleans.

Booker made 19 of 28 field-goal attempts and 8 of 16 3-pointers on Monday.

Phoenix led by as many as 27 points during the third quarter before New Orleans chipped away and got within 103-90 at the end of the period. Naji Marshall’s layup started the fourth-quarter scoring and pulled the Pelicans within 11, but the Suns scored the next six points.

New Orleans climbed within 115-108 on McCollum’s 3-pointer, but Booker answered with a layup for his first points of the fourth quarter with 2:00 remaining.

In the first meeting between the teams, Booker scored 25 of his points in the first quarter as the Suns took a 41-28 lead.

On Monday, Booker scored 14 points, Durant had 11 and Williamson didn’t score as the Suns raced out to a 28-15 lead with 5:17 remaining in the first quarter.

Murphy made a 3-pointer before Phoenix answered with a 10-0 run and twice increased the lead to 24 points. Larry Nance Jr. and Dyson Daniels made consecutive treys to trim the lead to 46-28 at the end of the first quarter.

Nance converted a three-point play to start the second-quarter scoring, but the 15-point difference was the closest the Pelicans would get for the remainder of the first half.

Booker’s floater with 33 seconds to go in the second quarter left him with 37 points and gave the Suns a 74-54 cushion at the break.