Well this wasn’t the Kevin Durant night we all hoped for, but fellow All-Star and homegrown all-timer Devin Booker put on a show for Phoenix Suns fans anyway in a Suns blowout victory.
Durant was a late scratch after rolling an ankle in pregame warmups. So Booker decided to make the night his own, scoring 44 points in just 27 minutes and leaving the Suns with a 36-point lead midway through the 4th quarter.
Booker is now the only player in Suns history with four consecutive 35+ point games. With all the rich scoring history in the Suns franchise, including Book’s 8 years, no one’s done that before.
Terrence Ross had a great night too, making 6 of 10 threes and scoring 24 points in 23 minutes in his best game yet as a Phoenix Sun. Chris Paul had 18 points with 9 assists in 24, and Deandre Ayton had 12 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes. Neither played in the 4th quarter. In relief, Cam Payne had 8 points and 7 assists.
Suns win easily, 132-101
They are now 37-29 on the season, just two games behind the two teams tied for 2nd in the West, Memphis and Sacramento. The Suns play Sac here in Phoenix on Saturday night.
What happened to Kevin Durant, you ask? During warmups, Kevin Durant rolled his ankle on a quarter-speed drive to the hoop.
Here’s video of Kevin Durant slipping on the floor pregame.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 9, 2023
He stayed down for a few seconds but then got up and finished his on-court work. pic.twitter.com/DwTrNc6LIr
He stayed on the court for a few minutes, still shooting around, before heading back to the locker room like usual. Then, a half hour later, Durant was ruled out for the game.
Here’s a longer video, courtesy of Duane Rankin. You can see him continuing to warm up.
Durant did not join the team on the sidelines for the game, presumably getting treatment and/or xrays to confirm (crossing fingers) no serious damage.
He did not appear on the sideline at any point in the game.
The game was a bummer after that, in terms of natural energy from the fans. Subdued. Deflated. Whatever the simile you want to use.
For their part, the Suns played well and took early control of the game, especially Devin Booker who made up for KD’s absence by making 7 of 10 shots for 17 points in the quarter, helping stake the Suns to a 31-16 lead punctuated by 61% Suns shooting vs. 25% Thunder shooting.
The Thunder stayed alive though by making 4 threes and 5 frees in the quarter, down only 34-21 after a quarter in which they made only 27% of their shots compared to the Suns 61%,
The Suns second unit, featuring Terrence Ross, Jock Landale, Cam Payne, Damion Lee and Darius Bazley was really lacking in connectivity. Probably because they’d never played as a five man unit before. They kept a lead on the Thunder, because the Thunder was playing a pretty ragged group too, but it wasn’t pretty. On either end.
The Thunder stayed in the game because they made threes. Their ragged second unit made 7 of their first 10 threes. SEVEN OF TEN. From guys named Waters, Butler, Mann and our own former Sun Dario Saric.
While we all watched, that five man Suns unit let the lead get all the way down to 4, at 43-39, before Monty Williams called a timeout. Dudes like Lee and Ross decided to ignore their good shooting ability and drive into the paint to lose the ball on a steal or block. It was terrible to watch. The Thunder had outscored the Suns 18-9 so far in the quarter.
Booker, Paul and Ayton all returned, with 6:26 left in the second quarter and a 43-39 lead. They promptly committed a pair of turnovers, before Booker finally turned a transition three into a four-point play. Lindy Waters III followed it up with his 5th three of the game — much like Isaiah Joe hit 5 first-half threes two weeks ago in the first half.
While Booker remained on fire, the rest of the team appeared stuck in mud and barely extended the lead by halftime.
Suns had a 10-point lead as the half expired, but apparently Booker committed a foul on a wild three point attempt as time was expiring in the half (leg to leg, after the shot was well gone). Lindy Waters III made all three free throws to pull the Thunder within 60-52 at half.
- Waters* has 21 at halftime — 6 threes and 3 free throws after being fouled lightly on a three
- Booker has 30 at halftime
- The only other player in double figures for either team is Chris Paul with 10 points.
Who the hell is Lindy Waters III, you ask? He’s their Ish Wainright. The 25 year old on a two-way all season, and just signed a deal to finish out this year on a full contract with a team option for next season. In his entire NBA career, he’s played in 53 games and made more than 4 threes only twice. On March 30 a year ago, he made 7 of 13 threes in 32 minutes of play as the Thunder tanked out the string for the #1 overall pick. He’s made 6 of 8 threes so far in this game, clearly his best as a pro so far.
The Thunder opened up the half scoring again, with a three-point play by Josh Giddey. That’s six points on their last two possessions, folks. 62-55 Suns.
But this is Devin Booker’s night, folks. He’s here to give the fans a show, with or without KD. He scored 5 quick points to put the Suns back up 12. Booker now has 35 points on 13 of 18 shooting.
That’s Booker’s 4th straight 35+ point game — the first time in his career that’s happened, and the only Sun in history to do it in 54 years.
Devin Booker is the first player in Suns franchise history to record 4 straight 35+ point games. pic.twitter.com/O3n7Nuu3iH— NBA History (@NBAHistory) March 9, 2023
But then he committed his 4th foul and had to take a seat. The only thing holding Book back is fouls — he committed that last-second foul just before halftime, and now his 4th of the game just 2 minutes into the second half stopping a drive to the hoop. He takes a rest.
So then Chris Paul takes over a bit, and pushes the Suns lead to 18, which soon grew to 19, despite the Thunder continuing to make a ton of threes (13 of 29) to stay alive in the game.
Let’s see how the benchies do this time. Book came back in with them, despite his 4 fouls, to try to keep things together.
This is turning out to be a low-leverage game now. Suns are up big, giving Booker no reason to blow up the scoreboard. He’s already set his own Suns record anyway.
Suns are up 104-80 after three quarters. Booker leads all scorers with 37. Chris Paul and Terrence Ross have 18 each, and Deandre Ayton has 12.
I’m guessing Monty will go with as many bench guys as possible the rest of the way, despite the Suns not having another game until Saturday. No use risking more injury, considering Durant is already out. He never joined the team on the sidelines for this one — not a great sign, IMO.
Forget I said that. Book comes out for the 4th quarter after all, but this is Terrence Ross’ night now. He made a quick pair of threes, and is now up to 6 of 9 for the night, with 24 points. His best night as a Sun so far.
Book even stayed in when the Suns called a timeout, up 29. Booker had 39 points, so presumably he wanted to top 40? He topped 40 a minute later, then made his 6th three pointer with just over seven minutes left to give himself 44 points and the Suns a 36 point lead.
Book came out of the game for good with 7:26 left. He finished with 44 points on 17 of 23 shooting, plus 4 assists and 3 rebounds, in only 27 minutes of play.