PHOENIX (AP) – Devin Booker scored 28 points and the Phoenix Suns moved closer to finishing the NBA’s best regular season record, routing the Chicago Bulls 129-102 on Friday night.
With a franchise record of 57-14 in 71 games, the Suns trailed second-placed Memphis by nine games with 11 games remaining. Memphis lost to Atlanta earlier Friday.
Deandre Ayton added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns. Cameron Payne scored 15 points, Torrey Craig and Landry Shamet had 14 each, JaVale McGee 12 and Mikael Bridges 11.
DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points for Chicago, fifth in the Eastern Conference at 41-29. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points. Coby White had 14, Zach LaVine 12 and Tristan Thompson 11.
The Suns are 9-4 without point guard Chris Paul. He came out with a fractured right thumb. Starting forward and Cam Johnson and sixth man Jae Crowder also missed the game.
Craig started his second game in place of Crowder, and the striker put on another solid performance. Wednesday night in Houston, Craig scored 21 points on 8 of 8 shooting, including three 3-pointers, and had 14 rebounds.
The Bulls lost their third in a row to fall to 2-6 in March. All of the streak losses have been on the road, where Chicago is 16-19. After one game at home, the Bulls play five straight on the road.
The Suns (48.5%) and Bulls (48.2%) entered Friday as the best field goal percentage teams in the NBA. The Suns improved on their season average, making 56% while the Bulls struggled and only made 41%.
Phoenix led by 14 points in the second quarter. It was 61-48 at halftime, with Booker scoring 20 points. The Suns were 12 of 12 from the free throw line, Booker making seven. Vucevic had 10 points to lead the Bulls in the half. DeRozan and White had nine each.
Suns coach Monty Williams was busy preparing for his team’s game, but he was able to keep track of Notre Dame’s upset victory over Alabama in the NCAA Tournament earlier Friday.
“I saw a bit before leaving and then I got a text telling me they had won,” the former Ireland striker said before the game. Williams played at Notre Dame from 1989 to 1994. “Coach (Mike) Brey just changed our program. Hopefully he’ll be here for another 20 years.”
“It’s a big win for us because it’s hard to bring these elite players to Notre Dame, because of other things. For him to do it in a year where it’s not the one of the years where they’ve been really, really good, it’s great.”
Bulls: PF Patrick Williams could return to the Bulls next week, coach Billy Donovan has said. Williams missed 65 games with a wrist injury that required surgery.
“He’s progressed well, no setbacks. He’s cleared to play,” Donovan said ahead of Friday’s game. “His conditioning is good. The timing is a bit off.
“We’re just trying to give him more training days, after five months without contact.”
Williams could play for the Bulls’ Windy City G-League on Sunday. Other possibilities would be Monday in Toronto or more likely Tuesday in Milwaukee if he plays in the G-League game.
Donovan also said G Lonzo Ball’s (right knee) status hasn’t changed. Ball, out since Jan. 28, is in the middle of the initial six-to-eight-week prognosis, but hasn’t been able to return to action. Donovan said there’s a chance he won’t return until the end of the regular season in three weeks.
Suns: Crowder (pain in left groin) is brought in slowly. He also missed Wednesday night in Houston. Johnson (fourth right) has missed eight games.
Bulls: Toronto hosts Monday night.
Suns: in Sacramento on Sundays.