The Phoenix Suns opened their 2023-24 campaign with a win, 108-104 over the Golden State Warriors. Booker led the way in scoring, doing so with 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting. Without Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds, with Jusuf Nurkic adding 14 points and 14 rebounds.
On the Golden State side of the ball, a Draymond-less Warriors team was led by Steph Curry’s 27 points. His foul trouble limited him to 31 minutes played, and he was 4-of-14 from deep.
We expected Devin Booker to be instrumental in the win, but Josh Okogie starred all night as well. Here’s how it went down:
There’s something poetic about the game opening with a missed Chris Paul shot followed by a Jusuf Nurkic and-one assisted by Kevin Durant. Nurkic added a block shortly after at the top of what would be a productive game for the new big man. Suns would start up 13-5 as Devin Booker had it going early as well.
Eric Gordon in for Grayson Allen was Phoenix’s first sub after Allen started in place of the injured Bradley Beal (back). Drew Eubanks replaced Nurkic, and Yuta Watanabe replaced Durant. Unfortunately for Phoenix, the early stint of Eubanks included a sequence where Steph Curry blew by him followed by an illegal screen he set on the ensuing possession.
Jordan Goodwin was fourth off the bench, making up an all-bench lineup (if you count Allen, who would’ve come off the bench if Beal played) of Goodwin, Gordon, Allen, Watanabe, and Eubanks. The unit came apart after some rough rebounding, and Okogie returned to mirror Curry’s minutes.
The longer the stars stayed on the bench late in the first, the smaller the Suns’ lead became. Golden State reached their biggest lead of their game at this point, 32-28, after Eubanks tallied his third foul — and stayed in — bumping Chris Paul on a three-point attempt.
Booker kept up his offensive onslaught in his second stint, getting to the rim at will no matter the traffic; his ability to finish through contact continues to improve in his ninth season as well. Golden State was blitzing him every time, and Booker made the right play with ease, finding Nurkic for a three-on-one possession and then finding Nurkic for an assist to Okogie on the next.
I wrongly focused too much in the preview on Okogie’s perimeter shooting, because his cutting, offensive rebounding, and overall paint finishing will be so valuable for this team going forward, especially when so many of their offensive options prefer jump shots; it can help maintain floor balance for Okogie to be such a threat inside.
Durant’s and-one three-pointer gave the Suns a 15-point lead with a handful of seconds left in the first half as the broadcast pointed out it was the fifth or sixth and-one for the Suns on the night in just one half. Phoenix took their 61-46 lead into the locker room.
Weirdness started to ensue early in the third as an elderly fan took some sort of a tumble courtside, stopping play for a minute or two. Booker steadied the weirdness when he curled up for an elbow jumper, getting the Suns their first bucket of the half nearly two minutes in. Weirdness returned as the Warriors almost immediately answered with a 9-0 run, prompting a timeout from Frank Vogel.
The one glowing positive from this early start was Okogie’s continued tormenting of Curry, making his life miserable on offense, and drawing Curry’s fourth foul on defense. Nurkic hit a long two shortly after, giving the Suns their fifth point in five-and-a-half third quarter minutes. Booker picked up his third foul a minute later against his old backcourt-mate, Paul, continuing an abysmal start to the quarter.
Nassir Little would become the 10th man to log minutes for the Suns, and he hit a three-pointer early on in his debut. He also stole a Warriors pass that Okogie would finish for two in transition.
Although Golden State won the third by 21, the first half lead Phoenix built up provided enough margin for error that they only went into the fourth down six, 86-80. Gordon was one to give the Suns the lead back early in the fourth, but this thing was long from over.
The two teams went back and forth and back and forth over the final minutes in the fourth. Per NBA.com, the game featured nine ties and nine lead changes; it felt like all of them were in the second half or even in the fourth.
With just over four minutes left, Booker reached his final point total of 32, giving the Suns a 100-96 lead. Booker proceeded to turn the ball over on back-to-back possessions, and both were unforced. He made good on these mistakes with a few clutch assists.
Booker found Okogie in the left corner for three after probing around a Nurkic screen, found Gordon on the right wing for three after another Nurkic screen, and finally found Nurkic on the roll for two; all weathering the storm of a five-point spurt by Curry in the final minute. This brought Booker up to 32 points and eight assists on the night, picking up right where he left off in the playoffs.
Suns move to 1-0 following the 108-104 win. Durant (18), Okogie (17), Nurkic (14), and Gordon (10) all joined Booker in double-digit scoring while Curry paced the Warriors with 27 points while Paul added 14 points and nine assists.
Suns get a travel day on Wednesday, traveling just a little bit south along the coast to LA where they’ll face the Lakers on Thursday. It’ll once again be a TNT game, and this is a team that the Suns beat by 23 in the preseason finale without Booker or Beal, the latter of whom hopes to be recovered enough to make his Suns debut vs LA.