NBA

Booker hails Beal's game-changing return as Suns sting struggling Hornets

By Sports Desk December 30, 2023

Devin Booker labelled the fit-again Bradley Beal's return as a "game-changer" as the full-strength Phoenix Suns put the Charlotte Hornets to the sword on Friday.

Beal returned to the court after a five-game absence due to an ankle injury, collecting seven assists as the Suns condemned the Hornets to a 10th straight NBA loss with a 133-119 victory.

Booker racked up 35 points, while Kevin Durant had 21 and 11 assists to go with another free-scoring showing, although the former credited Phoenix's roster for a resounding triumph over the struggling Charlotte.

"It's a game-changer, being at full strength," Booker said. "The offense was moving, the ball was hopping around and we were getting the best available shot."

Beal also managed six points and three rebounds in a 30-minute performance, while Jusuf Nurkic had 24 and 16 rebounds, Eric Gordon scored 21 and Grayson Allen posted 16.

"It's just good to be back on the floor," Beal said. "We got the win and finish the game, that's all I cared about tonight."

On the well-rounded scoring, Beal added: "That's what we want, that's the beauty of it.

"There's a lot of threats out there, guys who are very versatile. We can shoot the ball really well."

Phoenix went back-to-back with NBA victories for the first time since a seven-game run that ended on November 29, much to the delight of coach Frank Vogel, who also hailed Beal.

"I loved his floor game tonight," Vogel said about his returning player. "A lot of times [in returning from injury] guys will have a tendency to force, but he let the game come to him.

"We have a team that is selfless. We have a chance to be special."

The Hornets were again without the injured LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward, though Terry Rozier led the way with 42 points on 14-of-21 shooting.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford conceded the Hornets "just couldn't stop" the Suns before adding: "With that effort, that approach, really not a good second half [Thursday] night, getting in here late, guys playing big minutes last night. I was proud of them."

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