Moore, short-handed Suns hold off Spurs 123-121

San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson, rear, reaches over Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, center, for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Eric Gay, AP Photo)

SAN ANTONIO – The Phoenix Suns gave some rest to their All-Star backcourt and got the win but not the help they needed to secure the NBA's top seed.

E’Twaun Moore scored 22 points and made a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining that lifted Phoenix past the San Antonio Spurs 123-121 on Sunday.

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Playing without Devin Booker and Chris Paul, the Suns were bailed out late by Moore, who also made a 3 with 1:08 remaining to stop a 9-0 run by San Antonio.

Booker and Paul spent the entire game cheering on their teammates and joined in a raucous postgame celebration.

“I love it when they celebrate each other,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “I’m the only one that they can’t celebrate, because I haven’t done squat, but they need to celebrate each other every chance they get, every achievement.”

Keita Bates-Diop tipped in a missed free throw by Tre Jones to put San Antonio ahead 121-120 with 10 seconds left, setting up Moore’s winning 26-footer.

“He gave me a little space and I just rose,” Moore said. “It wasn’t too much to it.”

Phoenix finished one game behind Utah for the league's best record. The Jazz secured the top seed throughout the playoffs later Sunday by routing Sacramento. Had the teams finished with the same record, the Suns would have gotten the top seed because Phoenix swept the season series from Utah.

The Suns will host the winner of the play-in game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in a first-round series.

“I’m confident about how we’re playing, but we also know one through eight in the West is just nutty,” Williams said. “Everybody is beatable.”

The Suns rested Booker and Paul in the final regular-season game for both teams. Phoenix was also without starting center Deandre Ayton, who missed his third straight game with a sore left knee. The trio only missed a combined 10 games this season.

Phoenix still closed the season by winning three straight and nine of 12.

The Suns had eight players score in double figures, including 54 points from their reserves. Jevon Carter and Cameron Payne, who started in the backcourt, had 19 points each.

“That was fun,” Carter said. “Just showed how deep we are as team.”

San Antonio will play Memphis on Wednesday in the postseason play-in tournament. The Warriors beat the Grizzlies on Sunday to finish eighth in the Western Conference. Memphis fell to ninth and will host the 10th-place Spurs.

DeMar DeRozan had 23 points to lead San Antonio, which closed the season by losing four straight and 10 of 12. Jakob Poeltl added 17 points and 10 rebounds and Bates-Diop had nine points in 12 minutes.

DeRozan, Poeltl, Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gay all returned after missing Saturday’s 140-103 loss to the Suns for rest.

“We wanted to get a good workout, I guess, conditioning-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Get some rhythm for Jakob, Dejounte, and DeMar. Don’t get anybody hurt. The young guys got to play a lot against a Phoenix bench that is pretty veteran.”

Phoenix entered the second half trailing 61-52, but Carter had 13 points in the quarter, guiding the Suns to an 80-74 lead with 3:39 remaining in the third.


Suns: At age 36, Paul played in all but two games in his 16th season. Before Sunday, his only other absence was Feb. 8 due to a sore right hamstring. ... Booker closed the season averaging 25.6 points per game, marking the fifth consecutive year he has averaged 22-plus. Since averaging 13.1 points in his rookie season, Booker has averaged 25.1 points. ... Ayton missed the final three games of the season after playing in every contest prior. He averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds compared to 18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds last season but played in 31 more games this season.

Spurs: Patty Mills was rested after making his first start of the season Saturday. ... Lonnie Walker IV had nine points in 27 minutes after being listed as questionable with a sore left quadriceps. Walker and teammate Drew Eubanks collided in the first quarter on Saturday, but Walker returned to finish that game.


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