Booker-led Suns host 76ers
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PHOENIX -- Now that Phoenix shooting guard Devin Booker has returned, the Suns are finding even more ways to use him. One way was too much for Philadelphia when they met a month ago.
The Suns have won both games since Booker returned after missing three weeks with a strained left adductor muscle, and interim coach Jay Triano even stationed Booker at the point in the fourth quarter of a 111-101 victory at Sacramento on Friday.
The move makes a lot of sense, inasmuch as the Suns usually try to put the ball in Booker's hands down the stretch regardless. He is averaging 24.7 points a game, 10th in the league.
"I think he's going to take over anyway, and we want him to do that," Triano told reporters after the Sacramento game.
"The idea is to put shooters around him, and you could see how much space there was on the floor when (shooting guard Troy Daniels) is on the floor and TJ (Warren, a forward) is scoring the way that he was."
Booker and Warren had 26 points apiece against the Kings and reserve Daniels had nine, including two 3-pointers. Daniels has 28 3s (in 59 attempts, 47.5 percent) in the last eight games, a perimeter threat that requires attention and thus creates operating room for others.
The Suns (14-23) have won five of their last seven games after a five-game losing streak. Booker had 32 points in his first game back, a 99-97 victory over Memphis decided when Tyson Chandler converted a lob pass into dunk at the buzzer Tuesday.
"He's a special player," Chandler told reporters about Booker. "You can see it. Some players that come into this league just have it. They're few and far between, and he's one of those players."
Philadelphia (16-19) will have a quick turnaround after a 107-102 victory in Denver on Saturday, the fourth stop of a five-game trip that ends in Phoenix. Dario Saric had 20 points and JJ Redick had 18.
It was the Sixers' second victory on the road trip but only their third win in the last 13 games following their first run-in with Booker and the Suns on Dec. 4.
Booker scored a season-high 46 points in the Suns' 115-101 victory in Philadelphia, 32 points in the second half. He made three of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and also finished with eight rebounds and two steals.
"Devin had quite a night," 76ers center Joel Embiid said. "We took them lightly, and we paid for it."
Embiid, the third player taken in the 2014 draft, is averaging 24.0 points a game, 14th in the league. He had 22 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists and no turnovers in the first meeting with the Suns.
Embiid sat out the Denver game -- he still has not been cleared to play in back-to-back games because of his injury history -- but is expected to start against the Suns. He has played in only five of the last 11 games, missing three earlier in December because of back soreness.
Philadelphia forward Ben Simmons, the first player chosen in the 2016 draft, had 20 points in the first game against the Suns, but his production has dipped slightly since. After averaging 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds a game through November, he has averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in December. He had a triple-six against Denver -- six points, six rebounds, six assists.
Guard Markelle Fultz, the first player chosen in the 2017 draft, accompanied the team on their Western swing but has not played since Oct. 23 because of a shoulder injury. He has missed the last 31 games.
Updated December 31, 2017