Devin Booker had 36 points and 12 assists, Kevin Durant also had 36 points, and the Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets 129-124 on Sunday to tie their Western Conference Semifinal playoff streak at two games. each.
Backup guard Landry Shamet made four crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Suns in front. Denver lost despite a huge game from MVP runner-up Nikola Jokic, who had 53 points on 20-of-30 shooting.
Jokic used his physical play to knock down several large buckets, even snatching the ball from Suns owner Mat Ishbia at one point after the ball went out of bounds, earning the Nuggets All-Star a technical foul.
The series returns to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday.
The Suns took a 98-92 lead in the fourth quarter after a flurry of goals from Booker, who had 17 points in the third. Phoenix wouldn’t trail in the fourth, although Denver didn’t go quietly.
Kevin Durant (pictured) and Devin Booker scored 36 points each as the Suns beat the Nuggets
Two star players from the Phoenix team showed up to even the series on Sunday night
Nikola Jokic scored 53 points for the Nuggets but was still on the losing side at the end of the night
Booker and the Suns were 10 points behind with less than five minutes to play but remained calm
The Nuggets trailed 116-106 with 4:55 remaining but never panicked, slowly taking the lead. They shot 123-120 with 22.4 seconds left, but TJ Warren made two free throws to bring the margin down to five.
Booker — averaging 36 points on 60 percent shooting in these playoffs — was hot again, shooting 14 of 18 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers. Shamet finished with 19 points, shooting 5 of 8 on 3s.
Jamal Murray added 28 points and seven assists for the Nuggets.
Suns point guard Chris Paul missed his second straight game with a sprained left groin suffered in Game 2.
The Suns took a 63-61 lead at halftime. Jokic had 24 points for the Nuggets before the break while Durant had 21 for the Suns.
Jokic was given a technical foul in the second after a bizarre altercation with Ishbia.
Late in the period, Suns guard Josh Okogie crashed into the seats trying to save a stray ball. He landed in a group of fans on the baseline that included Ishbia, who caught the basketball.
Jokic was trying to get the basketball back quickly – apparently so the Nuggets could start their offensive possession – when he tried to take the ball away from Ishbia.
The ball flew back into the crowd and then Ishbia was thrown back by Jokic’s elbow.
There were a few minutes of confusion as the officials sorted out the odd scene and then Jokic was charged with a technical foul.
Jokic (left) was given a technical foul after appearing to push Suns owner Matt Ishbia
Sunday’s game with the Suns and Nuggets in Phoenix was a thriller as the series leveled up
Durant and the Suns don’t have too much time to celebrate with Game 5 on Tuesday night
Ishbia told The Associated Press at halftime that he was “fine” and more worried about the game than the altercation. He was back in his usual places in the second half.
Suns center Deandre Ayton was the subject of scorn from the media and fans after his lackluster performance in Game 3.
Ayton had just four points and nine rebounds in Game 3 and the former No. 1 overall pick was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Jock Landale.
But the big man got the fans back on his side on the first offensive possession of the night, grabbing three straight offensive rebounds before Booker hit a small jumper as the crowd roared.
Ayton finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
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