PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker felt he had to give the team’s fans joy Wednesday night.
The Suns and their audience for their 132-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Footprint Center were understandably shocked once forward Kevin Durant was ruled out of what was expected to be his home debut with the team fewer than 20 minutes remaining until tip-off. Outside of cheers for Booker and another tenured Sun, center Deandre Ayton, when they were called in the starting five, the team’s fans were very quiet during the first six-and-a-half minutes of the game.
Expecting a widely-anticipated event, Durant’s debut, the fans were understandably stunned by his injury and deflated. What could Booker and the team do to encourage them?
In front of the Suns’ reported 58th straight sellout, Booker brought Suns fans back to life with another historic accomplishment. He became the first player in franchise history to have four straight games with at least 35 points with his 44-point effort against the Thunder on 17-of-23 shooting (6-of-10 from 3-point range) with four assists and three rebounds.
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
“The city’s been waiting on this,” Booker said of Durant’s debut. “It’s a big day. We’ll reschedule the party. I’m sure they’ll be back. The people that missed out on tonight, I tried to give them a little something to make it better.”
Booker’s last four games — three of which have been with Durant — have been more indicative of the superstar he has become and is continuing to be. He has shot 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range in those contests, attacking opponents from different areas of the floor.
Devin Booker is the first player in Suns history to drop 35+ in 4 straight games— NBA (@NBA) March 9, 2023
Tonight: 44 PTS, 4 AST, 6 3PM, 74% FG pic.twitter.com/TPED9af1aY
Booker was electric early against the Thunder. He had 17 points in the first quarter and 30 at halftime, which was the second time he has done so this season and the seventh time he has done it in his career. By the end of the first quarter and beyond, Booker had the Suns’ fans cheering like everything was normal.
When his night ended, he received a standing ovation, something that has been very common and should continue to happen for years to come.
A standing ovation for Devin Booker— NBA (@NBA) March 9, 2023
44 PTS, 4 AST, 6 3PM, 74% FG
The first player in Suns franchise history to record 4 straight 35+ point games. pic.twitter.com/ZMxPr0ngsE
“It’s just team,” Booker said. “When you defend at a high level, you get out in transition, not tonight, but having [Durant] on the other wing, it’s going to naturally open up space for everybody. And one of the best point guards of all time (Chris Paul) delivering the pass on time, on target, (Suns starting center) Deandre (Ayton) setting screens, opening up in space and (Suns starting guard) Josh Okogie being a pest to every other team’s best player and making them pay, too. Just hitting on all cylinders right now.”
Booker certainly appears to be his normal self after he missed the end of December and all of January due to a groin strain.
In the nine games since he has returned, Booker is averaging 27.6 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds on 49.5 percent shooting (32.7 percent from 3-point range).
“Still working on my wind, trying to get all the way back,” Booker said. “But just have a little groove going.”