PHOENIX — When Devin Booker received a pair of signed shoes from his idol, Kobe Bryant, that read ‘Be Legendary,’ he took those words to heart.
The Phoenix Suns’ star shooting guard has referred to that quote multiple times in his career, including this postseason. After his 47-point effort to close out the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, he said Bryant was at the front of his mind. After Phoenix won the Western Conference title, also inside Staples Center, Booker tweeted ‘BeLegendary’ as an ode to Bryant.
"Finish the job. That's what he'd tell me."— ESPN (@espn) July 8, 2021
—Devin Booker on what Kobe would have said to him right now
(via @malika_andrews) pic.twitter.com/c9VwgL5oEH
And during the Suns’ 118-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Thursday night, Booker added another chapter to his memorable postseason with a team-best 31-point effort on 12-of-25 shooting (7-of-12 from 3-point range) along with six assists and five rebounds.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul have combined to score 113 points through the first 2 games of the Finals.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 9, 2021
That's the most by a starting backcourt in the first 2 games of a Finals since starters were first tracked in 1971.
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/YnYsBuBPD6
Booker is now up to 490 points this postseason, the third-most by an individual player in their first playoff run in history, and is two wins away from his first NBA championship. He said he is enjoying these moments thoroughly.
“I said before the series, I’m excited,” Booker said. “I’m excited honestly every day I wake up and get a chance to play in the NBA, the league that I’ve been watching since I was a kid. So, I try not to lose sight of that.”
After starting 2-of-10 from the field, Booker made 10 of his last 15 shots, including a 21-point second half in which he hit several key shots to keep the Suns ahead.
“I just think Devin wants to prove to everybody he’s one of the best players in the league, but not just from a stats, numbers perspective,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I think he wants to prove it by winning and he’s competitive.
“I think that’s what he wants, to separate himself from everyone else. To not only put up stats but to show that he can lead a team to win, and he’s getting the chance to do it on the big stage.”
After the Suns’ Game 2 victory, here is what Booker said to the media.
If the NBA Finals feels exactly like he thought it would:
Devin Booker looking quite snazzy tonight pic.twitter.com/lNrlXPa3b9— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 9, 2021
“Yeah. To be completely honest, you know, I think the whole playoff experience helped to tone it down a bit because I feel like we have seen a lot of situations and different coverages, and we have been through it all through the regular season and stressing the details of the game. So, I think we’re prepared for this moment. Obviously, Milwaukee is no slouch and they make it tough on us and they’re always going to make it tougher on us, but we have seen a lot as a team.”
On starting the game shooting 2-of-10 and rediscovering his rhythm:
“Just slowed it down a bit. Early in the game, just amped, excited and shooting a few things long, rushing a few shots. So just getting back to fundamentals.”
On getting open to hit three crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter:
This is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/3kz4tS5CqK— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 9, 2021
“That’s just team. Team basketball. I think a few of them were open and we prepared for these moments, like you said, nobody’s running from any action or any type of moment, like you guys are saying, and it’s not just me, it’s 1 through 5. It’s like you said, setting my man up, (Suns starting center) Deandre (Ayton) hitting a screen, (Suns starting point guard) Chris (Paul) causing enough attention to get me open. So, it’s all the collective group, it’s team basketball and that’s why I feel like we have been successful for most of the year.”
On playing with a high motor from start to finish:
“Just preparation, taking care of your body. There’s a whole list of it. But I think the adrenaline and me and (Suns starting forward) Mikal (Bridges), we’re some young guys, we’re young and getting it and trying to get after it. So, I don’t feel tired, for real.”
If he took anything from Paul or Bryant on maximizing his health:
“Everything. I take bits and pieces from all my mentors and preparation with diet, strength training, just making sure your body can withhold these moments, and during the regular season we’re still working, even after we win a game next day in practice, we’re in there getting right, making sure our bodies are right and it’s not just myself, it’s everybody on this team.”
On how he views the Suns being ahead 2-0 in the series:
“I said before the series, I’m excited. I’m excited honestly every day I wake up and get a chance to play in the in the NBA, the league that I’ve been watching since I was a kid. So, I try not to lose sight of that. Fortunate, both of us are grateful to be in this situation. We don’t want to take it for granted. So, it’s an everyday thing for us.”
On what he thought of Bridges’ performance:
“He had it going. He takes a lot of pressure off of everybody. And the most impressive part is he’s always guarding the most dynamic scorer on the other team. Middleton is not an easy matchup, and that’s his matchup every night and he has to do a lot on the other end. So, for him to still have his legs, still have his focus to make the plays that he did, it takes a lot of pressure off everybody, me, Chris, Deandre. It makes it a lot easier for everybody.”
On the work Bridges has put in to become the player he’s been this season:
“Just every day. You say the type of work, like I just said his focus is there every single moment. You get to the gym, Mikal’s there and he’s putting in extra work, he’s there after. So, you know people will still try to label him as a 3-and-D guy, and I’ve told you guys multiple times that’s not even close to his game. I think he stole a little going left fade from me a bit. I think he took that out of my book, but he gets it going. And if teams want to try to make him be the one to beat them, he’ll do it.”
If Bridges should be mentioned as the third guy on the Suns who can make mid-range shots effectively:
“Yeah. We’ll talk next year. “
On the play at the end of the first half in which the Suns passed the ball several times, leading to a score for Ayton:
This is probably the most unselfish possession I've seen in basketball in years #Suns pic.twitter.com/mpF1r97V7J— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) July 9, 2021
“Just chemistry, trust, believing in your brother, believing in your teammate. We actually talked about that play right after the game, me and Mikal, and he was like, I think that was the most pumped I’ve ever been after a play and I was like, me too. Same here. So, when you’re playing like that, it’s fun. It’s fun, everybody’s touching it, you feel the energy of the ball. When you get it, you want to make a play for somebody else and something opens up always when it’s popping and moving like that.”
On how Suns coach Monty Williams manages the team during timeouts:
sound on— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 9, 2021
Monty Williams coaches up Deandre Ayton: pic.twitter.com/m64m7vTJ3O
“We trust him. If he comes in the huddle, he’s developed relationships with each and everybody in the huddle. So, he can pretty much say anything. He can be brutally honest. He can let you know what’s going on, but he’s always supporting and he’s always uplifting. That’s just the type of guy he is, whether you’re in the huddle or you run into him in the hallway, whether — it doesn’t turn off, that’s the type of character he has. So, that makes it a lot of fun to play for a man like that and those relationships, those personal relationships help him, I think, control the culture, control the environments that we’re in.”