PHOENIX — Deandre Ayton scored 26 points, a feisty Chris Paul added 17 points and 11 assists and the Phoenix Suns stayed in the hunt for the top record in the NBA by beating the New York Knicks 128-105 on Friday night.
The Suns stunned the Knicks by taking a 90-88 lead into the fourth quarter after scoring four points in less than a second. Torrey Craig tipped in Devin Booker’s miss with 0.8 seconds left and Cameron Payne stole the in-bounds pass and made a layup.
It was the Suns’ first lead since the first quarter and they’d never relinquish it, scoring 38 points in the fourth while making 8 of 12 3-pointers.
Payne celebrated with the bench, the crowd got rowdy and the momentum continued into the fourth. Mikal Bridges made a corner 3-pointer with 9:38 left to push the Suns ahead 101-93 and a frustrated Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout.
It got tense midway through the fourth when Knicks forward Taj Gibson knocked Paul to the ground and was called for a flagrant foul. Paul got up angry and started jawing with Thibodeau before Suns coach Monty Williams came on the court and pulled the point guard away.
Later, New York’s Julius Randle was given a technical after getting into it with Phoenix’s Jae Crowder.
The incident proved motivation for Paul, who quickly made two mid-range jumpers that helped push the Suns to a comfortable win. Ayton contribued one of his best games of the year, shooting 10 of 14 from the field and grabbing 15 rebounds.
Randle led New York with 24 points and 11 rebounds. R.J. Barrett added 23 points.
The Suns and Knicks both came into the game fighting for playoff positioning with less than two weeks left in the regular season.
Phoenix still has a chance at the top seed in the Western Conference and best record in the NBA. The Suns are one game behind the Jazz for the No. 1 spot. The Knicks are trying to fend off the Hawks, Heat and Celtics for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Suns led by 13 at one point in the first but the Knicks rallied to take a 33-30 lead by the end of the quarter. New York stayed ahead the entire second quarter and had a 63-56 advantage at halftime.
Randle had 17 points and seven rebounds before the break while Rose had 14 points and five assists. Ayton had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Suns.
Knicks: Guards Alec Burks (left knee contusion) and Immanuel Quickley (left ankle sprain) were out. So was center Mitchell Robinson (right foot surgery). … The Knicks had a 63-56 lead at halftime, which was the exact same advantage they had in New York against the Suns on April 26. The Suns rallied to win that game 118-110. … Nerlens Noel fouled out late in the fourth. He finished with five points and five rebounds.
Suns: Forwards Cam Johnson (right wrist sprain) and Abdel Nader (right knee) didn’t play. … Crowder returned after missing the past eight games with a sprained right ankle. He hit a corner 3-pointer soon after he checked into the game and finished with 18 points.
Knicks: At Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Suns: At Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
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