Even during the tough times, you have to appreciate what you have. The Phoenix Suns have a superstar in Devin Booker, and on Saturday night, he reminded us of his greatness. In a game that felt lost — the Suns were down as many as 24 points — Booker willed his team to victory.
He scored 59 points on 21-of-35 shooting to do so. The New Orleans Pelicans, a team with grit and depth, were a challenge. Zion reminded you time and again that you cannot stop him. He does want he wants on the court.
But it was Booker who was the star of the evening, rebounding from some inefficient performances, to lead the Suns to an 18-12 record.
The Suns — and Devin Booker — came out swinging in this game. Metaphorically that is, there were no physical altercations to be at this game. Devin Booker found his rhythm and helped the Phoenix Suns take an early lead over the Pelicans. Booker was 5-of-8 for 12 points in Q1 points.
But the rest of the Suns were struggling. The rest of Book’s teammates were 5-of-16 for 15 points in the first.
We were still reminded, however, of how potent and deep the Pelicans are. And how the Suns are not. CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas took advantage of an absent Deandre Ayton, and while Zion Williamson only had 2 points, CJ and Big V combined for 25 points.
Phoenix went ice cold from shooting midway through the first quarter, and ultimately ended up trailing by 34-27 after one.
Suns scored 9 points in the last 7:27 of the first quarter. 23-9 Pelicans run.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) December 18, 2022
The second quarter was similar in that the Suns couldn’t hit a three-point shot. And they were taking plenty of them, rather than attacking the cylinder. The team was 2-of-11 in the quarter from deep. Devin Booker had 10 in the second.
The performance mirrored what we saw in New Orleans last week as they fell in love with a deep ball, which caused them to dig a deeper and deeper hole as they continued to miss. Outside of Booker, no one could generate their own shot.
Unless the Suns find another guy who can create his own offense, games will continue to be decided by 3 point shooting variability. Better shooters getting healthy helps with that obviously, but it’s pretty clear.— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) December 18, 2022
The Pelicans took advantage of the one-and-done Phoenix philosophy, expanding their lead by outsourcing the Suns 29-19 in the second. It felt as there would be no answer for the well-balanced New Orleans’ squad. The game was essentially over. Or was it?
Pelicans 63, Suns 46.
It was the Devin Booker show in the third quarters. He put up 20 points, doing anything he could to try to get the Phoenix Suns back in the game.
His team began to make some of their three-point attempts, shooting 6-of-10 from deep in the quarter, but it was Devin Booker, who continued to attack in all aspects of the offense. He was 8-of-12 in the quarter.
The Pelicans were patient, utilizing Zion Williamson in a variety of different ways. A slam dunk. A double team leading to wide open three. Anytime you felt a Phoenix run happening, Zion ended it.
But that didn’t last. Because Devin Booker was going nuclear. The Suns outscored the Pelicans 38-26 in the 3rd.
Devin Booker has 43 of the Suns 85 points.— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) December 18, 2022
Booker continued the fourth where he left off the third. En fuego. Unconscious. Carrying the team on his back.
The Suns and Pelicans, more notably #1 Booker and #1 Zion, were changing punches throughout the fourth. With 6:52 in the game, the Suns crawled all the way back from 24 points back to tie the game at 99 a piece.
Booker had 55 of those points.
We will be watching Book highlights on replay all night. pic.twitter.com/iLrbED9dXV— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 18, 2022
Josh Okogie made numerous relentless offensive rebounds down the stretch, extending Phoenix possessions and demoralizing the New Orleans defenders. In turn, he put the Pelicans into foul trouble and the Suns into the bonus, a place they don’t find themselves often.
With 1:25 left, and a 111-109 lead, Mikal Bridges tied up CJ McCollum to earn a vital jump ball. A jump ball the Suns would win. The next possession for the Suns was a CP3 three-pointer. It was their 15th made three of the night.
A Bizzy block of Zion on the next possession, and the Suns shot free throws to win the game.
Chris Paul ended with 18 points and 8 assists. Zion had 28 points, including 16 in the fourth. Josh Okogie had 7 points and 6 rebounds, including 4 vital offensive boards in the fourth.
Oh, and Booker had 58.
The Suns are playing the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Anthony Davis’ availability is up in the air.
We’ll see you then!