It was a weird night for Devin Booker to have the best game of his career.
He had to hear about his own failure in Game Three for nearly half a week because of the long break between contests. He likely knew he was ready, but time can sap confidence.
Once the game started, his confidence was proven correct, and we all were reminded that, no, the Bucks do not have an answer for him. Neither Khris Middleton nor PJ Tucker (whom he was 11-21 against through the first three games) can guard him, and once Booker was able to get some floaters to go in early on, his rhythm locked into place. The bad man awoke.
But just as quickly as he started, he had to slow down. A fourth foul at the 5:55 mark led Monty Williams to put him on the bench, then to do so again at the 10:50 mark in the final period after foul number five. Booker ended the night with only 39 minutes played, so his 42 points stood more for what could have been (50? 60?) than what was. His scorching game and foul trouble were both punctuated by late game moments that defined the loss.
On the big block that helped seal the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo initially motioned toward Booker and looked to be out of the play. It’s because Booker was the threat, a man on a mission to win the game and a title. And then there was Booker’s own late foul on Jrue Holiday, the one that wasn’t called. Despite all of it, Booker put together the best shot-making game of his entire career.
For a player who has scored 70 points in a game, who has had 47 in a closeout game against his team’s mortal enemy, who most recently put up a 40-point triple-double to open the Western Conference Finals — that’s saying something. But for my money, we’ve never seen a night quite like this one when it comes to Booker, one of the pre-eminent shot makers in the NBA, just flat-out making shots.
It looked like so many games prior, with Booker coming off screens, loading up for his high-rise jumper, finding crevices in the defense big enough only for his shot to go up. It was hardly the prettiest box score, with Booker not making a single three or tallying many assists or rebounds (an admittedly big blemish since the Bucks grabbed 17 offensive boards). Still, the degree of difficulty and importance to each shot Booker splashed in made it the greatest shot-making achievement of his career.
A few personal favorites:
- The lefty finish over Brook Lopez in the second quarter. Booker knew he had to get to the rim more, and that meant getting creative. No problem.
- This baby, another from the left hand, with Holiday draped all over him and Lopez lurking again:
- 2 seconds left on the shot clock, right baseline, the raindrop floating jumper over Pat Connaughton, with a similar style as the dagger over the Clippers in the Bubble
- Right elbow jumper after Holiday stonewalls him midway through the third period
- Avoiding Giannis and making this off the glass, another example of Bookers’ absurd touch:
After the game, Booker was adamant that none of this mattered because they lost. Most Suns fans will agree. Hopefully, though, after some time and distance from the heartbreaking loss, we can all marvel at Booker’s brilliance in a game where hardly anyone else had it going, right after perhaps his worst game of the postseason.
We’ve seen 70 points from Booker, and many other grand postseason moments, but it doesn’t get more difficult than a huge Finals game, following up on one of the worst games of your career. Booker did that. Don’t let it go by without appreciating it.