Booker, Rubio help Suns race past Giannis-less Bucks

PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 20 of his 36 points in Phoenix’s 47-point first quarter and the Suns beat the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-131 yesterday.

The Bucks played without MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a minor knee sprain. Injured last Friday night in a loss at the Los Angeles Lakers, he’ll also sit out the game at Denver.

Ricky Rubio had a triple-double for the Suns with 25 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds, becoming the first Suns player since Steve Nash on March 30, 2005, with at least a dozen points, assists and rebounds.

“It is an honour for me,’’ Rubio said of being in the same statistical realm of Nash, a player he has long admired.

Aron Baynes added 24 points, and Mikal Bridges had 21.

Khris Middleton scored 39 points for Milwaukee. Former Suns guard Eric Bledsoe had 28.

“It is hard to win three quarters and lose a game by nine,’’ Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Still, it was a huge hole. They did a lot of things well.’’

After the Bucks cut their deficit to eight points, Baynes threw down a dunk, banked in a layup and nailed a three-pointer. Milwaukee rallied to close with within six, 134-128, and the Suns finished it off at the free-throw line.

“I just thought we executed; didn’t panic,’’ Suns coach Monty Williams said. “And that’s what you have to do against a team that maybe is the favourite to win a title.’’

On the heels of Baynes’ unprecedented nine-of-14 three-point night against Portland, the Suns made eight of their first 10 and 9 of 14 overall to take a 19-point lead with their biggest quarter of the season.

“Tough first quarter for us,’’ Budenholzer said. “Phoenix’s aggressiveness on both end of the court put them in a position where they could maintain a lead and take it home. ‘’

Booker was seven of eight from the field, going four-for-four on three-pointers, in the quarter. He finished 13 of 17 from the field, four of six on 3s, made six of seven free throws and had eight assists.

“It’s the highest form of respect for me,’’ Booker said of the box-and-one defence the Bucks attempted. He credited his teammates with foiling it, as six Suns players scored in double figures.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker drives as Milwaukee Bucks guard Wesley Matthews defends. PHOTO: AP