Booker has 23 points in return, Suns edge Heat 111-90

MIAMI (AP) — Devin Booker scored 23 points, Mikal Bridges added 21, and the Phoenix Suns got off to a slow start to beat the Miami Heat 111-90 Wednesday night in a matchup of NBA conference leaders.

Booker, returning from a four-game absence for virus-related issues, flirted with a triple-double, finishing with nine assists and eight rebounds. Phoenix improved the NBA’s best record to 53-13, and defending Western Conference champion Suns have now beaten all 29 other teams this season – the first time they’ve done so since 2006- 07.

Deandre Ayton had 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who got 11 points and 15 rebounds from JaVale McGee, and 11 points each from Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne.

Duncan Robinson scored 22 points for Eastern Conference leaders Miami, which lost just the third time in its last 15 games.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro each scored 17 for the Heat, which played without Jimmy Butler (sinus congestion) and lost key reserve Caleb Martin midway through the second quarter to a knee injury.

The Suns were down 11 points early, took a two-point halftime lead, then beat Miami 34-19 in the third quarter to blow things up. Booker capped the quarter with a long 3-pointer, the Heat went 1 for 8 in the quarter from beyond the arc and it was 91-74 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Miami came out flying, scoring 25 points in the first 6 minutes – a flurry fueled by five 3-pointers. The Heat were 9 for 12 from the floor in that streak, 5 for 6 3-pointers and finished the flurry on seven straight shots.

That’s when the Phoenix defense appeared.

The Heat hit 7 of their next 21 shots, Phoenix calmed down and turned it into a runaway in the third. An 18-7 run from the Suns pushed the margin to 80-65 late in the third and the lead eventually swelled to 27 in the fourth.

ADVICE

Suns: Phoenix edged Miami 55-38. … The Suns need to go 10-6 in their last 16 games to post the best regular-season record in franchise history. The Suns were 62-20 in 1992-93 and 2004-05. … Crowder was introduced last among Phoenix starters, a tribute Miami often gives former Heat players to ensure they receive a proper and warm welcome. Fans obliged. … Phoenix improved to 5-3 without Chris Paul (fractured thumb).

Heat: It was the 21st game Butler has missed this season; Miami is 13-8 without its highest-paid player. … Victor Oladipo, in his second game after 11 months out after leg surgery, scored four points in 16 minutes. Don’t expect changes to Oladipo’s minute allocation anytime soon, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m going to give the same answer for a while,” he said. … Miami fell to 4-14 in scoring 102 or fewer points. When the Heat score 103 or more, they are 40-9.

STRANGE SWING

Phoenix allowed 25 points in the first six minutes, a season-worst for that stretch. The Suns then allowed two runs in the next six minutes, a season-best for that stretch. And the tone was set for the rest of the evening.

STRANGE POSSESSION

The Suns missed eight shots – on one possession. Crowder missed a 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the second quarter, Aaron Holiday then missed a layup and McGee missed two returns and a point try before the ball was knocked out of bounds by Miami. Landry Shamet went for a corner 3, blocked it, got the rebound, then went for a lay-up and blocked it out of bounds. Finally, Crowder was wide on another 3-point try, and Miami finally got possession.

FOLLOWING

Suns: host Toronto Friday night.

Heat: Cleveland host Friday night.

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