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Suns build big lead, hold off skidding Nets

Jan 19, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) passes the ball against Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo in the first half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mikal Bridges recorded 28 points and nine assists and Deandre Ayton had 24 points and 14 rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns notch a 117-112 victory over the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.

Cameron Johnson contributed 19 points in 22 minutes off the bench in his first game for the Suns since sustaining a knee injury on Nov. 4. Damion Lee added 16 points and reserve Saben Lee had a season-best 15 as Phoenix won for just the third time in its past 15 games.

Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving scored 21 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter while playing through a calf injury. He also had seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals but couldn’t prevent the Nets from matching their season worst of four straight setbacks.

Nic Claxton had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets. Joe Harris and Seth Curry scored 16 points apiece and Cam Thomas added 15, while Ben Simmons had seven points and six assists for Brooklyn before being ejected in the third quarter.

Nets star Kevin Durant (knee) missed his fourth straight game.

Phoenix played without Devin Booker (groin) for the 12th straight games. Chris Paul (hip) missed his sixth in a row.

Brooklyn trailed by as many as 24 in the third quarter but was within 113-110 after Irving drained a 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds remaining in the fourth. Damion Lee split two free throws with nine seconds left for the Suns, but Claxton slammed home a dunk to pull the Nets within two with 8.1 seconds left.

Bridges split two free throws with 7.4 seconds remaining to give Phoenix a 115-112 edge, and Johnson later made two with 3.5 seconds left to close it out.

The Suns shot 45.9 percent from the field, including 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) from 3-point range.

Brooklyn made 52.4 percent of its shots and was 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from behind the arc.

The difference came at the foul line, as Phoenix hit 28 of 41 while Brooklyn was just 15 of 25.

Brooklyn trailed by 21 early in the fourth quarter before erupting with a 20-4 burst. Irving had 12 points during the run to help the Nets trim their deficit to 103-98 with 4:32 remaining.

Simmons drew two technical fouls for arguing with 8:47 left in the third quarter, and Damion Lee made both free throws to give the Suns a 73-55 lead.

A short time later, Bridges converted a three-point play to boost the Phoenix advantage to 81-57 with 7:13 left in the period.

Brooklyn countered with 12 straight points to cut the lead in half.

Ayton had 17 points and nine rebounds in the first half to help the Suns hold a 65-51 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media