From out of the ashes, the Phoenix Suns arose like a, well, Phoenix – the mythical bird after which their city gets its name. Down 24 points to the (at the time) Western Conference-leading New Orleans Pelicans, it would have been easy for the Suns to pack it up and focus on their next tilt on Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Instead, they got a monster performance from their best player, Devin Booker, who went off for 36 of his 58 points in the second half with 16 coming in the second quarter.
It’s a new season high and the second time this year (the fifth time in his career) that he has gone for at least 50 points in a game. Booker had 51 points in three quarters in a blowout of the Chicago Bulls on November 30.
He also has a 49-point effort against the Utah Jazz on November 18 under his belt.
Devin Booker Makes Bold Statement With Performance in Suns’ Win
Suns Needed This From Devin Booker
“I was just making shots,” Booker said per Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic. “I’ve been in a bit of a slump and just have to keep shooting. That’s what I live by. I was put in the right situations to make the right plays. I usually just want to make the right play every time, but once I get it going a little bit, shooting over a hand – it’s the right play.”
Booker is a three-time All-Star and an All-NBA selection last season. But he was averaging just 14 points on 37.9% true shooting over his previous four outings with a two-game absence sprinkled in.
Still, he is 10th in the NBA averaging a career-best 28 points per game on 58.5% true shooting.
On Devin Booker’s unforgettable 58-point performance, how he made the right plays late in the Suns’ surprising comeback, and how he’s been carrying this team for most of the season now: https://t.co/ECVnIkFYDU pic.twitter.com/0T266jjyh5
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) December 18, 2022
But snapping his personal slump was not his only focus in his postgame presser. Booker acknowledged just how crucial the win was. This was Phoenix’s second straight win following a five-game slide.
“It’s important,” Booker said noting two prior losses to the Pels this season. “A potential matchup for the playoffs, and we understand that, so just want to come out and set the tone.”
Booker added that he usually makes the right play and, when he has it going, shooting even when contested is the correct decision. He also noted that his father, Melvin Booker, would surely be waiting to give him grief for going 10-for-15 at the free throw line – he is a career 86.9% shooter at the stripe and is hitting 85% this year.
Coaches, Teammates Weigh In
“Unreal,” Chris Paul said. “I’ve had an opportunity to play with a lot of greats. I’ve played with Blake Griffin, played with James Harden. Played with now Book and you try to not get caught up watching.”
That is lofty praise from the 17-year veteran.
But Paul was not the only player to appreciate what Booker was able to do. Pelicans star Zion Williamson also took note.
“If you watch basketball and you appreciate basketball, you have to give respect when it’s due,” Williamson – who had 30 points and nine assists of his own for the now second-place Pelicans said. “He put on a clinic. It felt like every shot he shot, not only were they good shots but they kept on hitting.”
Suns head coach Monty Williams was also highly complimentary of the effort from Booker (whom he has coached for the last four years) in the regular season which many of today’s players eschew to preserve themselves for the postseason.
The crazy thing about @DevinBook last night dropping 58, 2 games in recovering from a Hamstring strain is a number of players and you all can name them, would have probably never done it because they load manage and would never even try which is an absolute joke! #NBA
— Eddie A Johnson (@Jumpshot8) December 18, 2022
“That’s why I always laugh at people when they say the regular season doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “This is where you build the calluses. This is where you build the grit. This is where guys who haven’t played in certain situations get that experience. So when they do, if you’re fortunate enough to get to the playoffs, they have a reference point.”
Can The Suns Run?
Phoenix might want to pick up these next three games. They’ll host the Lakers, Washington Wizards, and conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies. Each is coming to the Footprint Center before they head out on a six-game road excursion.
They will face the Grizzlies and Wizards again.
But they will also face off against the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers all of which are playoff teams.
Phoenix will only get a two-game respite after that. They have to go back out on the road for four more games with dates against the Grizzlies and Nuggets as well as the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves.
This could be a very telling stretch of games in the Valley of the Sun.
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