On Friday night, Devin Booker scored 47 points to help keep the Phoenix Suns season alive in their second round series versus the Denver Nuggets in a 121-114 victory.
But that’s not all! To get those 47 points, Book made an incredible 80% of his 25 shots, while also dishing 9 assists and had 3 steals.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Booker said afterward. “Being ultra-aggressive. I understand that opens things up for my teammates when I play that way.”
It helps to have Kevin Durant as a teammate, because Durant draws swarming attention whether he has the ball or not.
“KD (Kevin Durant) draws so much attention,” Booker said. “It allowed me to hit open threes and just getting easy ones.”
Before we go too far down that road, though, remember that Durant has had a lot of teammates over the years and been in 11 playoff run before this one. Some of the greatest scorers in the history of the game.
None of those teammates has had a run quite as good as Booker’s.
No player in NBA history, per Stathead.com (basketball-reference.com), has even posted a 45+, 80%+, 5+, 1+ game. In all of the playoffs, only Dirk Nowitzki back in 2011 posted even a 45+, 80+% game. And that was on just 15 shots, in a game where Dirk had 4 assists, 0 steals and 4 blocks.
How did Dirk get 48 points on just 15 shots? 24 free throws. Guess how many free throws Booker was given in this game? 0, until Denver intentionally fouled him to stop the clock at 6.6 seconds left with a 7-point lead.
Book was asked about that after the game.
"That's a great question. I have no answer to that."— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) May 6, 2023
--Booker with a big smile, when asked to comment on his aggressive game, 25 shots and no free throws till the final seconds. At one point, he held up his hands to make a big zero.
You might think, ‘well, Book just takes jumpers’, but so did Dirk. For their careers, Dirk averaged 8.3 free throws per game in the playoffs, while Book averages 6.2. Not that far off. And Book was driving into the defense, drawing contact on his shots, all night long. The refs were letting everyone play in this one, with Kevin Durant the only other player on the Suns to even draw and free throws in the game.
Watch it here.
“Yes,” Durant answered with exasperation when he got the fourth question in this media session on how good Booker is. “Like I don’t understand why this is such a surprise to everybody. He has been doing this since day one. They might not have been playoff wins but he showed his skills since his rookie year. A lot of people overlook that and didn’t see him go for 45 and think it is something new.”
Durant had 39 points of his own, playing off Booker, plus 9 rebounds and 8 assists. The two of them wreak havoc on the opponent because you simply cannot guard them one-on-one or even 1.5 on one, with a second defender diving in whenever they drive into the paint.
Here’s some more accolades...
In just 8 playoff games, Booker already has three games of 45 or more points scored. In just 8 games! Only Michael Jordan (5), Allen Iverson (5), Jerry West (4) and LeBron James (4) had more 45+ point games in a single postseason before. None of them did it in 8 games or fewer. Jordan played 16 games that year (1989-90), Iverson had 22 games (2000-01), West had 11 games (1964-65) and Lebron James had 22 games (2017-18).
He also has 295 points in 8 games — the most in the first 8 games of any playoffs for any player since Michael Jordan in 1990. Book has done on the second-fewest shot attempts (191) while posting the highest shooting percentage (60.2%), and dishing the second-most assists (55).
You are watching HISTORY, Suns fans.
Please, I beg you Suns fans, put as much energy into appreciating Book’s masterpiece of a playoffs as you put into your frustrations over everything around him. It’s like holding a cuddly puppy. You can’t help but feel better.
“All the things you want in a superstar he brings it,” Durant says. “He doesn’t say much about it and a lot of people don’t write fluff stories or pieces about what he brings every day, but we see it and we appreciate it. You are starting to see it on a national scale the last few years with them being a successful team. He is everything you need in a player on both ends of the floor, out in the community. Man, can’t speak enough about how great he is.”
Durant and Booker combined for 86 of the Suns 121 points. No other Suns player had more than 7 points.
“They played really well tonight,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game of Booker and Durant. “Their two best players did what they were supposed to do. They put the team on their back, and they had great-great nights. Our defense has to be a hell of a lot better come Sunday afternoon.”
The Nuggets two best players had great games themselves. Jamal Murray had 32 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds, and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic became the first player in NBA history to post 30+ points, 15+ rebounds and 15+ assists in a playoff game. He had 30 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists on Friday night. But it wasn’t enough against the Suns pair.
The Phoenix Suns continue their playoff run on Sunday night in Phoenix, against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets at 5:00pm. The Suns are down 1-2 in this series, looking to tie it up.