Devin Booker was having one of those nights. The Phoenix Suns’ All-Star guard shot the ball efficiently, got to his spots at will and appeared to be in line for one of the most memorable NBA Finals performances in recent history.
By the end of the third quarter, Booker had 38 of his 42 points, tied with former Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson for the second-most points through three periods of a Finals game in the last 25 years. With the Suns leading by six, it seemed they were in line to close with Booker in charge, which would have given them a commanding 3-1 series lead in this championship series.
Instead, Booker and the Suns were thwarted by a 33-21 fourth quarter from the Milwaukee Bucks, which included them overcoming a 9-point deficit and going on a 12-4 run over the last 2:30 to win Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, 109-103. The series is now tied at two games apiece.
Booker’s 42-point night was his second-most of these playoffs — he had 47 against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference Finals — and third time scoring above 40 this postseason. Despite the loss, Booker eclipsed Hall-of-Fame guard Rick Barry for the most points by a player in their first NBA playoffs (542).
Devin Booker: 42 points— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 15, 2021
Rest of Suns starters: 38 points
Book is also the only starter without a negative +/-. pic.twitter.com/8rz4ejoBYM
“He was locked in,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We talk about that a ton. He had a really good workout yesterday, a somewhat of a decent workout and then this morning he looked really good in our warmups, shootarounds, but his focus to play in all three levels tonight on offense was really good for us. That’s just his mindset.”
Booker’s performance kept the Suns alive on a night in which they committed 17 turnovers and were once again outscored by the Bucks in points in the paint (48 to 40), second-chance points (19 to seven) and fastbreak points (15 to zero). Outside of Booker, Phoenix’s starters combined for 38 points on 23-of-50 (46 percent) shooting, and it shot 7-of-23 from 3-point range as a team.
Suns: 51.3 FG%— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 15, 2021
Bucks: 40.2 FG%
The Suns are the first team in NBA history to lose a Finals game despite shooting better than 50% and holding their opponents below 42%. pic.twitter.com/T6hdinNCGc
Here’s what Booker had to say after the Suns’ Game 4 loss.
On having a great night scoring night versus losing the game:
“It doesn’t matter at all. I said that after last game too, when I struggled shooting it. The main objective is to win the game. So anything that goes on throughout the game, it doesn’t matter, for real.”
If he felt like the Bucks got themselves back in the game or if it was a matter of mistakes that the Suns made:
“I mean, that’s a tough question but I would say a little bit of both. I think 17 offensive rebounds, 17 turnovers, so that’s on us as a team.”
On what it was like on the sideline in the fourth quarter, carrying five fouls and waiting to return:
“It’s tough but I think we, the group that was out there was holding it down, defending at a high level. It’s just, we have to close possessions and that’s obviously something that hurt us tonight. So, yeah.”
On how the Suns can limit the Bucks’ success with points off turnovers and second-chance points:
“Just be physical, be physical early on both sides. I think I picked up my fifth foul being aggressive trying to box out (Milwaukee starting forward) PJ (Tucker). They’re coming at full speed and we know that and we understand that.”
On when he felt like he could have a successful game:
“Yeah, just resting our bodies, getting treatment, just getting ready for the game that was tonight and that’s the same routine we’re going to do going into Game 5.”
On not being able to close out the game with a fourth-quarter lead:
“I mean, it’s really tough whenever you can’t win a game, especially at this point in the season.”
If he felt like he was still in rhythm after sitting for a good portion of the fourth quarter:
“No, I was still in rhythm. It’s a mindset more than anything and we, I was still there, but that’s beside the point, to be honest.”