Devin Booker has seen it all during his six-year career with the Phoenix Suns: losing seasons, coaching changes, altering personnel and endless frustrations.
And now, in his very first postseason opportunity, he has the franchise back in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Booker and the Suns completed their four-game sweep of the Denver Nuggets with their 125-118 win on Sunday night at Ball Arena. He finished second among his teammates with 34 points on 11-of-25 shooting and also had a team-best 11 rebounds and four assists.
Booker now has 81 points on 56% shooting, 22 rebounds and 7 assists in two closeout games this postseason — both of them wins, and both of them on the road (LA, game six; Denver, game four).
After the game, Booker said it was “hard to put to words” what the Suns’ turnaround has meant for him. At the same time, he said he expected something like this to happen.
“I never go into a season saying, ‘We can’t make it there, we can’t do it,’” he said. “We have the culture here, we have the talent in the locker room, especially with the additions that we made this offseason too. I think that’s where we’re supposed to be.”
The Denver Nuggets Ball Arena was loaded with more Suns fans than any local could expect. Check out this little vid of how Devin Booker and Chris Paul took the time during their post-game interviews for TNT to recognize the loving fans.
Remember this is IN DENVER.
Suns fans show D-Book and CP3 love after their game ❤️ pic.twitter.com/izwu7IN6aj— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 14, 2021
But the Suns’ journey won't stop here. Phoenix will next face the winner of the semifinal series between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, looking to advance to its first NBA Finals appearance since 1992-93.
Here’s more of what Booker had to say after his team’s Game 4 win.
On what it feels like to get to the Western Conference Finals with the Suns:
“It’s a feeling that’s kind of hard to put to words. You always reflect, after a game like this or after you close a series out, you sit back and reflect a little bit and think about what you just talked about, what we’ve been through as an organization and as a team. And even the short time that Monty has been here, just watching the culture develop, watching players get better every day and people put their hard hats on and come in and work every day. So it’s a beautiful sight to see, to see hard work pay off.”
On the emotions of the locker room after the game:
“We were hyped, man. (Starting point guard) Chris (Paul) was saying before the game, he ain’t never swept somebody. He ain’t never beat anybody 4-0, and I don’t know the last time the Suns have been to the Western Conference Finals. But tonight is one of those nights that we celebrate in-house and then we wake up tomorrow and we’re on to either the (Los Angeles) Clippers or Utah (Jazz). Just paying attention to those games.”
On when he got a technical foul after confronting Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in the third quarter:
“That’s all I said, just, ‘What are you doing?’ I think it was just an emotional play. I don’t think he meant harm by it after, but just a frustration foul. But it was tough, just defending my teammate. That was it. But I seen him go up to (backup point guard) Cam (Payne) after and apologize, and I’ve played against the Joker multiple times. I know he’s not a malicious player.”
On what Paul has meant to him as a player and person and how he put his stamp on this series:
“I mean, it’s hard to just narrow it down how he’s helped me. You can go on the court, off the court. But what most comes to my mind, at first, is just how he carries himself as a true veteran in this league and a true professional. I said it after last game, just his approach to the game, the way he trains, the way he takes care of his body, his diet, his sleep regimen. So there’s many things, there’s many bits and pieces that he’ll come to me and talk about a lot, but I just sit back and observe him at the same time and learn that way. So I’m not the only person that will be saying, ‘That’s absurd.’ You can ask anybody on this team, ‘How has Chris developed your game?’ And everybody’s going to have a lengthy answer because he cares. He cares about each and every individual and he’ll let you know when he sees something that can better you.”
On what it meant to have his family in attendance for this moment:
“Yeah man, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I always tell people, ‘That’s my why,’ and that’s the reason I play the game, to see the excitement on my sister’s face, see the excitement on my mother’s face and my brother. So we’ve been through a lot as a family, and they love to watch me succeed. Any time I can put a smile on their face, there’s no feeling like it, for real. So that’s what keeps me going.”
On sharing the victory with Williams after the game:
“Like I said, it’s the time that we celebrate, man. We put a lot of work in, and I think as a group, as a unit from top to bottom, coaching staff, trainers, doctors, everybody. This is a time to celebrate what we did, but we wake up tomorrow and we’re on to the next goal.”
On the key to withstanding every Denver run:
“We’ve been there before. We prepared ourselves for those moments. I recall it before a game, you hear us come together as a team and say, ‘They’re going to go on a run at some point. That’s when we stick together even more, that’s when we bring it together even more, that’s when we communicate even more.’ And that was the name of the game. They came back, they gave us their best shot in the fourth and we just kept playing through. Kept fighting, relied on our defense. We understand that we can score, we can score with the best of them in very different types of ways. And we’ve punished teams for different coverages, but what we have to rely on is our defense. And when we can, that’s where it’s at.”
On where he has seen his team grow defensively in the playoffs:
“I mean, our goal at the beginning of the season was be top five in both categories, offense and defense. But our improvement, I think it’s just our communication, one, our versatility. (Starting center) Deandre (Ayton) protecting the paint, and then you just have some competitive wings that can switch a lot of actions, guard a lot of different types of players. (Starting forward) Jae Crowder being the grit of that. (Starting forward) Mikal (Bridges) taking on any top scorer in the league every night, he’s been doing that all season. So we just trust it, we trust it and we play together and we talk it out together and we hold each other accountable.”
If he expected the Suns would be in this position so quickly after Williams’ hire:
“I didn’t not expect it, to be honest. I never go into a season saying, ‘We can’t make it there, we can’t do it.’ We have the culture here, we have the talent in the locker room, especially with the additions that we made this offseason too. I think that’s where we’re supposed to be. We wanted to finish the regular season with the best record in the league, we fell a little short of that. So we just keep playing through, and we have other goals in mind that we’re trying to get to.”
On what it means to be this far into playoff basketball:
“I don’t work out in the summer thinking that my season’s going to be over after 82 games. So I put myself in a mental space where every shot counts. I try to vision the physicality, even when I’m out there by myself. So every time I train, every time I work out, I’m thinking postseason or I’m thinking these types of games right here.”