In the bubble, the Phoenix Suns have been perfect so far

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker (1) celebrates with teammate Mikal Bridges after scoring the game winning basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — The last time Devin Booker walked off the court as a winner in four consecutive games, these were the opponents: Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

That is, until now.

Booker and the Phoenix Suns — the team that came to the NBA restart at Walt Disney World with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record of the 22 teams in the field — are perhaps the best story of the bubble.

They’re 4-0 at Disney, breathing real life into playoff hopes that basically were nonexistent when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. It’s the team’s first four-game winning streak since December 2018; Booker missed one of those games, so it’s his first run of four wins in a row since helping Kentucky make its Final Four run in 2015.

“It definitely feels like a tournament, a big AAU tournament, the March Madness tournament,” Phoenix’s Cameron Payne said Friday. “That’s something I never even got a chance to be in, but hey, I’ll take this.”

With Toronto losing to Boston on Friday night, the Suns are the lone team that has yet to lose in the bubble. The Raptors had been 3-0 going into that game against the Celtics.

The Suns started their bubble run with a win over Washington and followed that with victories against three playoff-bound teams — first Dallas, then the Los Angeles Clippers (both of those games being 117-115 finals, the win over the Clippers sealed by a Booker

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James Harden’s 39 points help Rockets past shorthanded Lakers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — James Harden had 39 points and 12 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 113-97 victory on Thursday night over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were playing without LeBron James.

The Lakers, who clinched the top seed in the Western Conference on Monday, didn’t have James because of a sore right groin.

The Rockets were also short-handed, missing Russell Westbrook because of a bruised right quadriceps. But the combination of Harden’s big game and Houston’s long-range shooting were enough to take care of the Lakers. The Rockets made 21 of 57 3’s while Los Angeles hit just 2 of 19.

The Lakers scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 94-89 with about eight minutes to go. Houston had three turnovers and didn’t score in the fourth until a layup by Harden with just more than seven minutes remaining to allow Los Angeles to make it close.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the way Harden has been playing since the season restarted as the Rockets have gone 3-1.

“His commitment on defence is number one,” he said. “He stays locked in and is trying to win whatever it takes, accepting the double teams and trying to trying to bust it through to other guys. So there’s a lot of good things to marvel about.”

Harden’s layup jump-started Houston’s offence and was the start of an 11-0 run that pushed the lead to 105-89 with five minutes remaining. Harden, Austin Rivers and Robert Covington each made a 3-pointer in that span.

“We’re playing pretty good,” Harden said. “There’s a lot of things especially defensively that we can correct but I think our energy … and pace has been good.”

Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 21 points

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Raptors continue to roll in win over Magic; Aaron Gordon hurt

FILE — Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors shoots over Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic in the second half at Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 5, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida— Fred VanVleet had 21 points and 10 assists, and the Toronto Raptors held on to beat the Orlando Magic 109-99 on Wednesday night.

Pascal Siakam added 15 points and Kyle Lowry finished with eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

Toronto (49-18) has won its last seven dating back to before the hiatus and three straight games since the restart.

VanVleet said the Raptors knew early on that things were clicking for them.

“Just a rhythm and a flow, and everybody locked in and keying into the game plan,” he said. “I thought we started off strong, had a drop off and then got back to it late. We’ve been playing with each other long enough to kind of know when we’re in sync.”

The Magic (32-37) missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot following Washington’s loss to Philadelphia earlier Wednesday. But they maintained their 7 1/2-game lead over the Wizards for the eighth seed with four seeding games to play.

They also may be without forward Aaron Gordon for an undetermined amount of time after he left the game in the third quarter with a left hamstring injury after taking a hard foul from Lowry.

Gordon was going up for a dunk and was hit on the arm as Lowry went to strip the ball. Gordon’s left leg extended high in the air before he crashed to the floor and immediately reached for

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