BOSTON (AP) — A few days off went a long way for Kemba Walker.
Walker matched his season high with 32 points and the Boston Celtics rolled to a 99-86 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Walker was 11 of 17 from the field, hitting five 3-pointers. The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown because of a sore left shoulder, and Jayson Tatum struggled shooting for the second straight game, going 3 of 17. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Celtics (32-27) led by 21 points in the second half. They have won nine of their last 11.
"I was just taking the shots available to me," Walker said. "Some shots went in."
He also did it on the defensive end, drawing three charges on the night.
"I want to win. And plays like that shows it," Walker said. "I'm just trying to lead by example."
Coming off a victory in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the Suns (42-17) dropped two games behind idle Utah Jazz for the best record in the NBA. Phoenix has the NBA's best road record at 19-8.
Chris Paul had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Devin Booker finished with 15 points before fouling out with 4:37 left.
Walker and Smart both sat out Monday night's loss to Chicago with non-COVID-19 illnesses. Due to a rare late season break in the schedule, they had two extra days to recoup before Thursday's matchup.
Walker, who also hasn't played in back-to-backs in order to rest the tender left knee that sidelined him for the first 11 games this season, looked rejuvenated. He connected on his first four field goals of the night, including three 3-pointers, during a 19-point first half.
Almost every part of his game was working offensively, from creating space with the dribble for 3s, to breaking down defenders and getting in the lane for shorter jumpers or drawing fouls.
He said the extra time off has given him a lift.
"I'm feeling good," Walker said. "Obviously, some days are going to better than others. But I'm feeling great. I'm doing great job of taking care of my body. It's all about the upkeep."
Boston took a 66-45 lead in third quarter on a jumper by Tatum. The Suns responded with a 14-2 run and trailed 77-65 entering the fourth.
A 3-pointer by Mikal Bridges got Phoenix to 95-86 with 1:29 left. But a steal and layup by Marcus Smart helped the Celtics close it out.
"For 48 minutes they played longer and harder than us," Bridges said. "We can't control making shots, but we can control playing harder than that team. We've just got to learn from it and get ready for the next game."
BUCKS 124, 76ERS 117
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, Khris Middleton had 24 and Milwaukee beat Philadelphia to end a five-game home losing streak.
Bobby Portis added a season-high 23 points for the Bucks.
Joel Embiid scored 24 points for the 76ers.
SPURS 106, PISTONS 91
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Derrick White had 26 points, Jakob Poeltl added 17 points and 11 rebounds and San Antonio beat Detroit to snap a five-game home losing streak.
Lonnie Walker added 18 points and Rudy Gay had 14 for San Antonio.
Josh Jackson had 29 points to lead Detroit. At 18-42, the Pistons have the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Spurs have won three of four to move into ninth in the Western Conference ahead of the Golden State Warriors. They would face each other in the play-in tournament if the standings remain the same.
PELICANS 135, MAGIC 100
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Zion Williamson scored 23 points in 23 minutes in his first game against Orlando, and New Orleans beat the Magic to snap a four-game losing streak.
Brandon Ingram added 29 points for the Pelicans.
Mo Bamba had 17 points and 12 rebounds for for Orlando. Rookie Devin Cannady scored a career-best 17 points.
BULLS 108, HORNETS 91
CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Vucevic scored 18 points and matched a season high with 16 rebounds in Chicago's victory over Charlotte.
Coby White and Thaddeus Young each had 18 points apiece for Chicago.
Devonte' Graham led Charlotte with 16 points. The Hornets lost for the sixth time in seven games.