ANKARA – The Phoenix Suns came out on top in a battle of the conference leaders on Wednesday night, beating the Miami Heat 111-90 to become the first franchise to secure a spot in the NBA playoffs.
Devin Booker was pivotal as the Suns kicked into gear to run away with what was a tight game at 57-55 up until the halfway mark.
They scored 34 points to be firmly in control at 91-74 by the end of the third period, before charging on to their biggest lead of the game, 109-82, three minutes from time.
Booker ended with 23 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds at the FTX Arena in Miami, with Mikal Bridges adding 21 and Deandre Ayton pitching in with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Duncan Robinson was the Heat’s highest scorer with 22 points, followed by Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro with 17 each.
This was the 53rd win for the Suns, who sit top of the Western Conference with just 13 losses all season.
Despite the defeat, Miami remained leaders of the Eastern Conference with 44 wins and 23 losses.
Tatum on fire as Celtics beat Hornets
Jayson Tatum scored 44 points to carry the Boston Celtics to a 115-101 away win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Jaylen Brown added 15 and Marcus Smart finished with 12 points and nine assists in Boston’s fourth straight victory, which keeps them fifth in the Eastern Conference with 40 wins and 27 losses.
P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges each had 17 points for the Hornets, along with 15 from LaMelo Ball.
Hornets’ center Mason Plumlee was the rebound leader of the game with 15 grabs.
The Hornets are now ninth in the Eastern standings with a 32-35 record.
The top six teams of both conferences will directly qualify for the 2022 playoffs, where they will be joined by two each from both sides after a play-in tournament for those finishing seventh through 10th in the regular season.
The playoffs are scheduled to start on April 16 with 16 teams in the running for the 2021-22 NBA title.
Other Wednesday’s results: Detroit Pistons - Chicago Bulls: 108-114; Milwaukee Bucks - Atlanta Hawks: 124-115; Houston Rockets - Los Angeles Lakers: 139-130 (Overtime); Minnesota Timberwolves - Oklahoma City Thunder: 132-102; New Orleans Pelicans - Orlando Magic: 102-108; Dallas Mavericks - New York Knicks: 77-107; San Antonio Spurs - Toronto Raptors: 104-119; Utah Jazz - Portland Trail Blazers: 123-85; Sacramento Kings - Denver Nuggets: 100-106; Los Angeles Clippers - Washington Wizards: 115-109. (Anadolu)