INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Devin Booker scored 21 points and Chris Paul chipped in 19 as the Phoenix Suns cruised past the Indiana Pacers 117-104 on Friday night.
Playing one day after their blockbuster trade for four-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, the Suns led by as many as 26 and never trailed in a game they outrebounded the Pacers 64-45.
”It’s exciting times for the Phoenix Suns,” Booker said. ”You have one of the best players to ever touch a basketball coming. He’s going to fit right in.”
Durant, acquired from Brooklyn on Thursday, hasn’t played since Jan. 8 when he sustained a knee injury in a game against Miami. Durant, who was not with the Suns in Indiana, is expected to be healthy enough to play at some point after the All-Star break.
Bennedict Mathurin posted 22 points for the Pacers, while All-Star Tyrese Haliburton finished with 18 points and five assists. Indiana, which has lost 14 of its past 16 games, shot 42% from the field and committed 15 turnovers.
”Rebounding has been a challenge for us all year long,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. ”They had 19 offensive rebounds. Rebounding is an attention-to-detail and effort area.”
Phoenix shot 46% and capitalized on ball movement with 25 assists on its 43 baskets. Paul had nine assists and Booker five. Josh Okogie finished with 17 points and six boards, while former Pacer Torrey Craig started at power forward and racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Phoenix, which has won six of its past eight, led 30-24 after the first quarter, 60-47 at halftime and 95-77 entering the final period. The Suns bounced back from Thursday night’s loss in Atlanta.
”We had a trade, emotions, travel,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. ”(Thursday night) on the bus, plane, gave us a chance to get back to normal. Sometimes it takes you a minute to process whatever is going on.”
Suns: Film study will play a ”huge” role in determining how to work Durant into Phoenix’s offense, according to Williams. ”Huge as far as us figuring out what’s the most important thing to run,” he said. ”Right now, it’s the old (Gregg Popovich) saying: less is more.” … Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) and Landry Shamet (right foot soreness) sat out Friday’s game. T.J. Warren, reacquired before the trade deadline, was not yet with the team.
Pacers: Indy native George Hill, acquired Thursday from Milwaukee in a four-team trade, chose to begin a second stint with the Pacers rather than be waived to pursue opportunities to join a contender, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a pregame news conference. ”It’s totally up to you,” Pritchard recalled telling the 36-year-old guard. ”He immediately said, `I want to come back and teach.’ I don’t know if he’s going to coach, but he’s got valuable insights.” . Big man Serge Ibaka, sent to Indiana in the same deal, will be waived, Pritchard said. The 33-year-old has played in only 16 games this season, averaging 11.6 minutes. . Hill and forward Jordan Nwora, the third player obtained from the Bucks whom coach Rick Carlisle said will receive a ”great opportunity” to play in Indiana, should be ready to suit up for the Pacers next week, Carlisle said.
Suns: Return home to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Pacers: Play at the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
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