EditorsNote: Clarifies playoff race, Memphis result in Graf 7; other minor edits
The short-handed Phoenix Suns rode the hot hand of backup center Aron Baynes to end a four-game losing streak with a 127-117 win over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Baynes, starting in place of center Deandre Ayton (ankle), made a career high nine 3-pointers — five in first quarter — and scored a career-high 37 points with 16 rebounds.
Baynes’ previous career bests were 26 points and four 3-pointers.
The Blazers rallied from two huge deficits with long runs and trailed 122-114 with 1:22 to go. Then Baynes drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to put the game out of reach.
Dario Saric added a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds, and Devin Booker posted 23 points and 12 assists for the Suns. Mikal Bridges scored 18 points, and Ricky Rubio contributed 13 points and 10 assists.
CJ McCollum’s 25 points led the Blazers, who got 23 points and 20 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside. Damian Lillard added 24 points.
The Blazers missed a chance to gain ground on the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Portland remains 3.5 games behind Memphis, which lost 121-96 at Dallas on Friday.
Baynes had 19 first-quarter points while already surpassing his career high in treys. Phoenix was also without forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (knee).
Phoenix led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter and was up 34-22 at the end of the first 12 minutes.
The Suns built their lead to 59-36 before the Blazers went on a 20-0 run to climb within three points. Phoenix took a 67-58 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the Suns went up 78-62 on a steal and layup by Bridges, part of a 17-0 run to put them up 88-62.
The Blazers soon went on a 12-0 run, however, to get within 90-77, but the Suns held a 95-82 lead after three quarters. Portland never took a lead throughout the game.
The Blazers got good news regarding center Jusuf Nurkic, who has missed almost a full calendar year after sustaining a compound fracture of his left leg in a game last March 25. Nurkic announced that he is aiming for a return on March 15 when Portland plays host to the Houston Rockets.
—Field Level Media