PHOENIX (AP) — Mikal Bridges scored 28 points, Deandre Ayton had 24 points and 14 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns held off the Brooklyn Nets 117-112 on Thursday night.
Brooklyn fought back from 20 points down in the fourth quarter to make things tight in the final minute.
Kyrie Irving — who scored 21 points of his 30 points in the fourth quarter — hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 113-110 with 10.9 seconds remaining, After the Suns hit a free throw, Nic Claxton’s dunk with 7.4 seconds made it 114-112, but that’s as close as the Nets would get to taking the lead.
Brooklyn has lost four straight. The Suns snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Suns welcomed back forward Cam Johnson, who played for the first time in more than two months because of a knee injury. He had 19 points and made four crucial free throws in the final 20 seconds.
Johnson’s return is welcome good news for a team that had lost 12 of 14 games coming into Thursday.
Both teams were missing some of their star players. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant was out with a knee injury while Phoenix was missing its All-Star backcourt of Devin Booker (groin) and Chris Paul (hip).
The Suns controlled most of the game, pushing to a 94-74 lead by the end of the third quarter. The Nets cut it to 107-102 with about 3:30 left, but then had three straight turnovers to blunt their momentum.
Irving also had seven rebounds and seven assists. He was 11 of 27 from the field.
The Suns pushed to a 65-51 halftime lead after shooting 58.5% from the field. Ayton had 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists before the break.
Nets guard Ben Simmons was ejected early in the third quarter after picking up two quick technicals for arguing.
Simmons was called for an offensive foul on a screen and then started arguing with official Eric Lewis as both went down the court. Lewis called him for his first technical and then Simmons was subbed out of the game. As Simmons sat down, he continued arguing and got his second technical.
After he was ejected, Simmons immediately got up and walked back to the locker room. He finished with seven points, four rebounds and six assists.
Johnson got a huge ovation from the crowd midway through the first quarter when he checked in for the first time. Those cheers got even louder when he hit two 3-pointers in his first few minutes on the court.
Johnson was averaging 13 points before his injury Nov. 4.
NEW OWNER COURTSIDE
Incoming Suns owner Mat Ishbia was courtside Thursday night, sitting close to the same area that outgoing owner Robert Sarver used to sit.
Ishbia agreed to purchase the Suns from the embattled Sarver for $4 billion in December. The sale is still in the process of being completed. Ishbia is a former Michigan State player under coach Tom Izzo, and was a member of the Spartans’ NCAA championship team in 2000.
The NBA suspended Sarver in September for one year, plus fined him $10 million, after an investigation found he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”
Suns: Paul, Booker, G Josh Okogie (nasal fracture), G Cameron Payne (right foot sprain), G Landry Shamet (right foot soreness) didn’t play. … Had a 25-11 rebounding advantage in the first half … Hosted a 48th consecutive sellout crowd.
Nets: At Utah on Friday night.
Suns: Host Indiana on Saturday night.
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