Two years ago the NBA lost a legend. Whether you were a fan of Kobe Bryant or not, you had to respect his competitiveness, drive, willingness to give back to the game, and inspire a generation of ballers. No, Devin Booker is not Kobe Bryant. But on a night that you know was meaningful to the young two-guard, he was legendary.
Devin Booker scored 43 points on 16-of-28 shooting as the Suns downed the Jazz 105-97. The team has won 8 consecutive games and now have the best start in franchise history.
Book set a franchise record with his 16th 40 point game, and became only the 5th Sun ever to post 3+ games of 40 points and 10 rebounds.
Jordan Clarkson was en fuego for Utah, dropping 26 off of the bench, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Suns and their stellar guard play. And here is how it went down.
The Jazz had four different starters than just two days ago, with Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Royce O’Neale returning to their lineup. With both Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee both out with lower extremity injuries, Bismack Biyombo got his first start in purple and orange.
Phoenix started the game solid – and kudos to the Suns fans who made their presence known from the stands – rushing out to a 13-5 lead by the time the first timeout was called. They did so with balanced scoring as all starters contributed on the first run of the game.
Bismack looked solid early, playing quality perimeter and interior defense. His second block in as many defensive possessions led to a devastating Booker dunk, which was part of a 12-0 Suns run.
Jalen Smith, who had totaled 0 minutes in the last three games despite Deandre Ayton’s injury, was inserted into the game halfway through the first. It’s good to know we will not need to see him on the side of milk cartons. And wouldn’t you know it? He got a block too.
Injuries bring odd rotations. The Suns had Elfrid Payton, Landry Shamet, Devin Booker, Ish Wainright, and Jalen Smith on the court to close out the first. That lineup had a +5 in Q1.
Devin Booker continued to display his ability to set the pace relative to scoring in the first quarter. Entering the game on Wednesday, Devin was second in the NBA in first quarter scoring, posting 8.4 points-per-first (#1? Kevin Durant. 9.0). Book dropped 21 points in the first. The Jazz had 18. It is the 17th time Booker had scored 20+ points in a quarter.
Suns up 39-18 after one.
Devin Booker in the 1st quarter:— (@AaryanS19) January 27, 2022
Utah Jazz in the 1st quarter: 18 points
Utah isn’t the fourth best team in the Western Conference for no reason. They are a seasoned team that, like the Suns, have organic chemistry. Even with Gobert and Mitchell out, the veteran leadership on this team is present.
The Jazz reminded us of that – and the fact that they are tied for 5th in the NBA (with the Suns) in three-point shooting – as they began the second. They opened on a 12-4 run and regained their rhythm and energy. Both appeared to be lacking in the first.
Jordan Clarkson hit his second three-pointer to cut the lead to 8 points for the Suns with 5:17 left in the second quarter. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year has a quick-fire three-point shot and he ain’t afraid to use it.
Side note: It was hard not to think about how much water I drank today, as I stated at Utah’s piss-health gradient court.
Emotions began to heighten as Devin Booker was hit with his 8th technical foul of the season.
Booker had 6 points on 2-of-4 shooting, bringing his first half total up to 26 (10-of-15 overall), but the rest of the team struggled. It was his third career 25+ point half against the Jazz.
The team went 5-of-17 from the field (29.4%) – 3-of-13 (23.0%) not including Devin’s contributions – and turned the ball over 6 times leading to 8 Jazz points. Conversely, the Jazz went 12-of-21 (66.7%) including 6-of-9 from deep.
They were outscored 30-11 in the period, scoring 1 point in the last 6 minutes of the half. Phoenix 50, Utah 48.
Devin Booker, as Eddie Johnson stated on the BallySportsAZ broadcast, was “wired”. He came out of the locker room determined to continue his flame throwing ways, scoring 7 of the Suns first 11 points in the quarter. The third is another period in which Book cooks, averaging 8.2 points-per-third, good for 5th best in the league in that period.
The question tonight is simple: who else will step up for Phoenix? If you guessed Jalen Smith…
Utah proved their tenaciousness by attacking the boards in the third, snagging 3 offensive rebounds and staying in the game with their second chance points. Getting to the line doesn’t hurt either, and they did so making 5of-7 in the period to the Suns’ 2 total attempts.
Eric Pachall, former Villanova teammate of Mikal Bridges, was pesky as he scored 7 points and 3 rebounds. Ish Wainright entered the season shooting 22.7% from deep, making a total of 5 all year. He had two made through three quarters tonight.
Phoenix kept Utah at bay, however, expanding their lead. Devin had 37 points as the buzzer sounded to end the third, a quarter he played every minute of. The Suns expanded to lead to 10 points, up 74-64.
Suns stepped up their defense that quarter and held the Jazz to 16 points. Everyone doing their job on that end. Was trending toward the Spurs win before that. A 10-point lead with 12 minutes to go.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 27, 2022
When the fourth quarter begins, Chris Paul wakes up. While Devin Booker gets his rest in, CP3 goes to work, assisting his teammates, hitting threes, and cerebrally outsmarting his opponent. That has been the narrative. It continued tonight.
With 8:30 left in the game, Paul drew a shooting foul on the Jazz, which was their fourth. It would be free throws from the remainder of the game.
Jordan Clarkson came alive mid-way through the fourth once again. His third three-pointer of the period cut the Suns’ lead to four.
The Point God responded with a 12-foot jumper, his 12th point of the game. It wouldn’t be his last. The middle of the fourth quarter belonged to CP3. He created contact to get to the line, navigated to his favorite spot on the floor – the right elbow – and was surgical.
Devin Booker has 37 points— Warden Bridges (37-9) (@mikalbridge) January 27, 2022
Chris Paul in the 4th quarter: “It’s Chris Paul time”
The Jazz wouldn’t go away and for the 20th time this season, we entered “clutch” moments. They cut the lead to 2 with 3:40 left following an 8-0 run by Utah.
Chris Paul ended the run with a layup. But of course.
Devin Booker scored his 40th point as Hassan Whiteside was teched up, and Booker followed it up with a high-degree-of-difficulty 19-footer to put the Suns up 7. It was the closest the Jazz would get for the remainder of the game.
Entering the fourth, Paul had 6 points. Exiting, he had 15 on 5-of-7 shooting.