By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker dribbled toward the left corner 3-point line with two Pelicans in hot pursuit before rising up for an off-balance jumper. Coach Monty Williams wasn’t sure that was a great idea.
“I couldn’t make that shot,” Williams said grinning.
But Booker can. And he did.
The three-time All-Star put on a show with one of the best scoring games of his career, pouring in 58 points to nearly single-handedly push the Phoenix Suns past New Orleans 118-114 on Saturday night.
The Suns earned the comeback win barely one week after losing to the Pelicans twice in New Orleans. Booker prides himself as a team player and a willing passer, but on Saturday night, he realized he had the hot hand.
“Once I get it going a little bit, shooting over a hand is the right play,” Booker said.
It’s the second time this season Booker has topped 50 points — he scored 51 against Chicago at home Nov. 30 in just three quarters.
This effort was even more impressive because it brought the Suns back from a 24-point deficit. The three-time All-Star made 21 of 35 shots, including 6 of 12 3-pointers. He added five rebounds, five assists and played the entire second half.
The Phoenix bench and fans loved every minute of it. New Orleans? Not so much.
“I don’t enjoy watching somebody score 58 points on us,” Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum said. “It is not enjoyable.”
The Pelicans led 83-59 midway through the third quarter, but the Suns used a 25-6 run to cut that advantage to 89-84 going into the fourth. Booker scored 20 points in the third, willing his team back into contention.
“It’s unreal,” Paul said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of greats — Blake Griffin, James Harden and now Book. Sheesh, you just try not to get caught watching.”
Phoenix tied it at 99 with 7:04 left on Josh Okogie’s free throw. Booker scored a stunning 25 points in a row for the Suns before Okogie’s two free throws, making just about everything he tossed toward the rim as the home crowd roared.
The Suns were clinging to a 111-109 lead when Paul made a crucial 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining. Paul finished with 18 points and eight assists.
The Suns won their second straight game while the Pelicans have dropped three in a row.
Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 30 points and McCollum added 27. Williamson had a solid game, shooting 12 of 15 from the field, but it was completely overshadowed by Booker’s performance.
“You got to give respect when it is due,” Williamson said. “He put on a clinic.”
The Pelicans pushed to a 34-27 lead after one quarter while shooting 67% from the field. McCollum had 15 points, making 6 of 7 shots, including three 3-pointers.
New Orleans stretched its lead to 63-46 by halftime. Booker scored 22 points before the break on 8-of-13 shooting, but the rest of the Suns shot just 8 of 31 from the field.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean if we had been on a boat,” Williams said.
Booker broke the arena record, topping a 54-point game by Gilbert Arenas in 2006 for Washington.
Pelicans: F Brandon Ingram (left great toe contusion) was out. … Had a 48-34 advantage in points in the paint.
Suns: C Deandre Ayton (left ankle) missed a second straight game. … F Cam Johnson (right meniscus tear), G Cameron Payne (right foot strain), G Duane Washington Jr. (left hip muscle strain) were also out. … Missed 13 3-pointers in a row at one point during the first half. … Booker’s career high is 70 points, which he scored against Boston in 2017. … Hosted a 42nd straight sellout crowd.
Pelicans: Host Milwaukee on Monday night.
Suns: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
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