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Devin Booker has worst shooting night of postseason in masked effort

The Suns’ star player could not find a rhythm throughout his team’s Game 3 loss to the Clippers

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns starting shooting guard Devin Booker had his worst shooting night of the postseason in his team’s 106-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night in Los Angeles, scoring 15 points on 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from the field along with five rebounds and five assists.

Booker, who suffered a broken nose after colliding with Clippers backup guard Patrick Beverley in Game 2 on Tuesday, wore a face mask in Game 3, something he said he called former Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton for advice on. Despite re-adjusting the mask several times throughout the game, Booker said his nose did not affect his shooting.

“Not at all,” Booker said. “The nose feels fine. We lost the game.”

Booker’s field-goal percentage tied his worst clip of the season, when he also shot 5-of-21 in a 108-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 18. He has combined to shoot 10-of-37 in the Suns’ last two games after recording a 40-point triple-double in Game 1 on a 15-of-29 clip from the field.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Booker and Suns starting point guard Chris Paul’s combined 16 missed field goals in the first half was tied for the duo’s most in any half this season. In Paul’s return from health and safety protocols, he had 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting and 12 assists.

After Thursday’s game, Booker insisted his focus and that of his teammates had already shifted to Game 4, which will tip off at 6 p.m. PT on Saturday on ESPN.

“The quicker you can have a short memory and just be confident in yourself and the work that you’ve put in, I’ve pretty much seen every type of situation on the court,” Booker said. “So I believe in my work. The next game is going to be better.”

Here’s more of what Booker had to say to reporters.

On how much he felt like his broken nose affected him:

“Not at all. The nose feels fine. We lost the game.”

On what he feels like Clippers guard Patrick Beverley has done effectively on him from a defensive standpoint:

“He’s just ultra-aggressive. He’s denying, limiting touches. He has one objective out there and we understand that. So I feel like other things should open up, and we have to look at the film and see what’s open and see what we can get.”

On what conversations were like in the locker room after the Suns’ nine-game winning streak was snapped:

“The spirit’s high. We move on to the next one. That’s the type of team we are, we’ve been that way the whole season. So we’re going to stick with that. We’re going to come in tomorrow, go over film, regroup and get ready for Game 4.”

On the biggest differences with having Paul back on the floor:

“I think he was getting his wind under him, getting back, coming off of a virus, not doing any activity for a few days. But he’s ready to go, we’ll get to practice tomorrow and ready to get back at it.”

On how much a conversation with coach Monty Williams after watching film will help him see how he can be more effective offensively:

“Yeah, that’s the name of the game. You go and you watch film and see what we could have done better. We’ve been doing that since we started playing basketball. So you watch film to improve and to see what you might have missed in a high-tempo game. So we’re going to regroup.”

On how much the Suns missed backup guard Cam Payne after he went out with an ankle injury:

“A lot. I hope his ankle’s doing OK. Obviously, he’s been a spark for us and he’s made a lot happen for us when he’s been out there. So I just hope he’s in good health — I’ll check on him after we get out of here.”

On how he felt while playing with a face mask and advice he received from Hamilton:

“It’s fine, honestly. I honestly don’t really see it where it does affect me. I did talk to [Hamilton] about it, I’ve been preaching for a long time, he’s my favorite player of all time. I’ve had short conversations with him in the past, and I thought this was the perfect time to talk to him some more and get some advice. He chopped it up with me for a minute, gave me some great feedback, put me in the right mindset to go out there. We just have to be better next game.

“He said he stuck with it because putting it (a mask) on his face put him in character. He felt comfortable getting in the paint, felt he had an extra protection, felt he had an extra layer. Said, ‘Just don’t worry about it. Don’t take it off when you shoot free throws and don’t let it be a distraction to you.’”

If he liked the quality of shots he got for himself:

“I’d have to rewatch it and see. I think so, just sort of thinking back. I know I missed some that I usually make, should make. But that’s part of the game.”

On when he found out his nose was broken in three different spots and when he found out the severity of the injury:

“That was probably the worst part. It was a procedure they just say they put you under for, but we had a flight out a couple hours later, so they just numbed it up all over the place it felt like. Like, eight shots to numb it up. And then they go in there and they put it back (in place). They break it again, they break it back in place. So it’s my first time experiencing that, but they said (backup forward) Cam Johnson went through it. So I knew I could.”

On how he processes a slump like he’s had the last two games, if he is open to conversation or if it’s something he figures out on his own:

“A mix of both, I would say. I always hear people out, especially people I respect like (Suns coach) [Monty Williams]. But I’ve been playing this game a long time, I’ve been through every time of shooting slump you could think of. And the best advice that my dad gave me when I moved with him when I was 13 years old was, ‘Have a short memory in this game. On to the next play, on to the next game, on to the next possession.’ So the quicker you can have a short memory and just be confident in yourself and the work that you’ve put in, I’ve pretty much seen every type of situation on the court. So I believe in my work. The next game is going to be better.”

On what got the Suns away from feeding starting center Deandre Ayton after he had a 10 first-quarter points:

“I’d have to go back. The game happened so fast, so that’s what the film is for. Yeah, that’s that.”

On containing the Clippers when they have a five-out offensive set with capable shooters:

“I think the biggest thing is just guarding your man, just so you’re not in rotation. They play five-out style of basketball when they go with that small-ball lineup and I think they’re just trying to drive and kick. So just stay in front of your man to keep the team out of rotation.”

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