Devin Booker’s second 50+ point performance of the season came at the right time, as the Phoenix Suns would knot their season series with the New Orleans Pelicans at 2 behind yet another masterful performance from their star.
1.) Dictating with Devin
The Pelicans threw a lot of the kitchen sink at him in terms of coverages: Switches, switch-and-overs, as well as switches-and-doubles. Then, in pick-and-roll, he saw the show-and-recover, some at the level of the screen, some hedging out, and of course some trapping as well.
He was unfazed by it all, and as Monty Williams said in the postgame: “The only person that could’ve stopped him tonight was me.”
That sentiment couldn’t have been more accurate, as Booker was absolutely percolating.
Suns win 118-114, split season series with NOLA at 2 a piece— Stephen ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) December 18, 2022
Devin Booker with season-high 58 points on 15-23 from 2, 6-12 from 3, 10-15 from the stripe
TS% of 71.3
His 2nd 50+ point performance this season
The Suns saw themselves down 24, which then prompted a late third-quarter 25-6 run, via a display of shot-making from him that was absolutely absurd. Add to that his composure and the blend found in attacking doubles, as well as conceding to the advantage New Orleans present in him hitting a “spray man” out of them - allowing his teammates to play four versus three and three versus two - and you see the picture that was painted.
It was an all-impressive floor game from Devin Booker. We really saw a ton of his evolution in play. From playmaking discernment on-ball to shooting and working off-ball, the shot profile + scoring from all three levels, as well as attacking enough to earn his way to the line for 15 free throws, enabling the Suns to dictate pace while the game was in the balance.
He also found time to himself on the defensive end, leading the team with four deflections.
He is not just an offensive talent, he’s a two-way factor. That is what makes him the best two-guard in the world.
When you have this level of general buy-in from your superstar talent, everyone else on the roster falls directly in alignment with the standard presented, and culture is much more easily established, to where the absences of players (for injury or other reasons) can be consistently made up for, and the standard remains upheld.
That, in itself, is a true mark of leadership.
It was all there, and then some. When he’s in that zone, there are few players better than him. Also, when he’s in that zone, few teams are better than the Suns.
What’s most impressive here, however, is the fact that they were down 24 when the switch went off for Booker. Another display of how this rendition of the Suns can win in a multitude of ways. Doesn’t always have to be “pretty” but also doesn’t always have to be “back-and-forth” for them.
58 points (on 35 shots no-less) with an effective field goal percentage of 68.6 is very much a Booker stat line, a true MVP performance in front of the home crowd
2.) The ever-present Josh Okogie
Josh Okogie was yet again a key cog in the Sun's winning efforts. Not only was he a pest on the defensive end - seen anywhere from pestering McCollum at the point of attack, or “containing” Williamson (as much humanly possible, that is) - but he was also a menace on the offensive boards.
The Suns had 10-second chance possessions on the night (were a +4 there), and compiled 17 second-chance points (a +11 there).
Josh Okogie led the game and tied the Pelicans with four offensive rebounds, including three alone in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Monty Williams would reiterate just how imperative it is for him to find ways to use Okogie because he makes winning plays and competes in a way that’s as infectious as it is effective.
As a cherry on top, Okogie was also seven-for-eight from the charity stripe and had four deflections.
Regardless of what may happen transactionally with this team, which is inevitable, the amount of kudos Okogie has racked in over the last two weeks has to have stamped minutes in the rotation for him.
Adding to his value by unlocking more offensive versatility in operating as both a screener, as well as a short-roll option while the game was up for grabs.
Okogie was sometimes guarded by Williamson and other times by other Pelicans forwards, which preempted the Suns to have him screen. From there, it’d be a moment of “wait and see” as the Pelicans were forced to tip their hand on what they wanted to do with Booker.
There was something to the Okogie short-roll playmaking tonight in Q4— Stephen ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) December 18, 2022
Not sure if it's sustainable, but the fact that he showed he can is a major plus looking far ahead into more meaningful games
Bc, as a non-spacer, that ability to screen + play off Booker 2-on's...
Down the homestretch, it was heavy trapping, as mentioned above, presenting opportunity after opportunity for Okogie to make decisions underneath the screen, in four versus three advantages.
To which, he was up to the task. Remains to be seen, but this wrinkle could be an unlocking of yet another short-roll option for the Suns to compile, presenting Williams with optionality based on match-ups.
Will certainly be keeping an eye on there moving forward, but what is consistent is how much of a “time on task-er” he is for Williams and the Suns, seizing the opportunities he’s presented
3.) Making Three-Pointers
The Suns have a trend developing, where when they’re able to knock down 15+ from deep, they really make themselves hard to beat.
It’s a lot of the reason Cam Johnson’s dynamic (as well as his absence) has been so impactful.
The Suns, on average, take 34.5 attempts per game (10th) and make 12.9 (8th).
When they’re able to play at a free-flowing pace that helps to generate more organic looks, they take on a completely different form, and become that makes them much tougher to beat.
Their shot profile is taking shape into just what they need for it to be, and as they grow more whole (as well as add talent via trades), tending to their profile in this manner will be as imperative as anything.
The adjustment to the profile and the math that a game-to-game instance presents is just what they need, consistently.
Up Next: A match-up at home with the Los Angeles Lakers (12-16) on Monday night.