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Devin Booker earns Monty Williams emotional victory in coach's return to New Orleans

Associated Press

Friday 6 December 2019 07:19, UK

Devin Booker dunks en route to 44 points in the Phoenix Suns' overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans 2:00
Devin Booker fired for 44 points to lead the Phoenix Suns to an overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans

Suns coach Monty Williams was able to celebrate a victory in an emotional return to New Orleans as he guided Phoenix to a 139-132 overtime victory over his former team the Pelicans on Thursday night.

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Booker broke out of a perimeter-shooting slump, scoring 21 of his season-high 44 points in the third quarter, and Ricky Rubio powered the Phoenix Suns with four points and a critical assist in overtime.

Williams and late wife Ingrid raised five children in New Orleans and built a core of friends despite the team's mediocre results through his final season in 2014-15. When Ingrid was killed in a car accident in 2016 in Oklahoma City, where Williams had become an assistant coach, it was Williams' friends in New Orleans who helped him cope with the loss of his spouse.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry welcomes Monty Wililams back to New Orleans
Image: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry welcomes Monty Wililams back to New Orleans

"It is a big win to come back here for the first time as a head coach and win in overtime," Williams said. "I hate those situations because I was sweating like you know what, but it was pretty cool to come back here and win. And, now, I get to go outside and see some people who really care about me."

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Williams thought it might have been a pushover when the Suns led 105-85 early in the fourth quarter. But playing the back end of a back-to-back, Phoenix seemed to lose energy and the Pelicans fought back with five three-pointers, two by the normally scatter-shooting Lonzo Ball, to tie it at 125.

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The Pelicans had a chance to win in regulation, but Brandon Ingram missed a 15-foot jumper from the right baseline as time expired.

In overtime, Ingram's conventional three-point play tied it at 129, but Ricky Rubio hit a 12-footer and a scoop in the lane and then added a no-look assist to put the Suns up 135-129. Rubio finished with 15 assists.

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New Orleans got to 135-132 on JJ Redick's three-pointer with 56.5 left, but Frank Kaminsky, who had six points in the overtime, iced it with two free throws. Kaminsky finished with 20 points, and Kelly Oubre had 14 points and 15 rebounds.

Booker made Williams' homecoming successful.

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"Just recently in the past three games we have been slow out of half-time," Booker said. "We made it a point at half-time that coming out we needed to be better, so I just tried to put my foot down on that, come out with energy and be aggressive, and it worked well for us."

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