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Booker’s first quarter performance against the Lakers is a reminder that he can set the offensive tone

It’s been a while since we’ve seen an offensively aggressive Booker in the first.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night for the first time during the 2023-24 season, doing so behind the scoring efforts of Bradley Beal and Devin Booker. The backcourt duo combined for 68 points on 25-of-43 shooting (58.1 FG%) as the Suns pounded L.A., winning 127-109. The win pushed the Suns to 1-3 against their Pacific Divison foes, with their final matchup of the season occurring on February 25.

In that victory, we witnessed something that has been a rarity thus far this season: An aggressive Devin Booker in the first quarter. Remember when Book used to do this regularly?

Last season, Booker averaged 8.5 first-quarter points, which was good for sixth most in the NBA. That was his role with Chris Paul running point: to set the tone for the game by being aggressively offensive and attacking opposing defenses.

This season, however, the narrative has changed.

His role has changed. Booker has focused more on being a facilitator of offense rather than the tip of the scoring spear. Remember the game against the Brooklyn Nets on December 13? Book didn’t attempt a field goal the entire first quarter, rather, he ditched out four assists.

The Suns lost that game.

That display against Mikal Bridges and the Nets shows how Booker is dedicated to doing what he can to help his team, sacrificing of himself and embracing whatever role is needed of him by his coaching staff. In the past, that has been to be the primary scoring option for the team in the first quarter. This season it has equated to faciltation in the first, attempting to get those around him started.

Good, bad, or indifferent, playmaking Book in the first hasn’t led to the success Frank Vogel and the Suns have wanted. Entering Thursday night’s game, Booker has averaged 6.4 points per first quarter. And the Suns? The were a game over .500 at 19-18.

Something needed to change. Against the Lakers, something did.

What we witnessed against the Lakers is potentially a recipe for success moving forward. If the ball is primarily in Bradley Beals’s hands rather than Booker’s, there’s less opportunity for the opposing defense to blitz him and/or double him at the point of attack. If Book is operating in the space that we know he can excel in, the off-ball two guard, he can get his offense going early.

Booker went 6-of-10 in the first against Los Angeles, scoring 16 points in the quarter. It was his highest first-quarter point total put forth this season, and only the fourth time this season in which he has scored in double digits in the first.

“My teammates asking me,” Booker said after the win against L.A., “KD came to me before the game and was like, ‘I want you aggressive. Don’t worry about getting me involved. I’ll get myself involved.’”

Booker’s scoring output in the first is something that the Phoenix Suns have desperately needed.

Thus far this season Kevin Durant has led all Suns in first quarter scoring, averaging 7.9 points. Respectfully, this needs to change. Why? Kevin Durant is 35 years old. Devin Booker is 27 and in his prime. He should be the primary point of attack on offense, with Kevin Durant making a living as the tertiary option after Bradley Beal.

That is how the game began for the Phoenix Suns against the Lakers. It was Booker taking over in the first quarter. It was Bradley Beal dominating the third quarter with 20 points. Durant, in his typical fashion, came in and was the “run stopper”. Anytime the Lakers would put together a push to get back in the game, Phoenix gave the ball to Kevin Durant, he hit a 15-foot dagger to end that run.

That’s the role where KD should excel. Playing off ball, picking and choosing his spots to throw daggers, and letting the younger All-Star guards around him cook.

And Booker? He excels in being the first option on offense, especially in the first quarter. If he is putting pressure on the defense, that will change their defensive game plan and how they want to negate his effectiveness for the remainder of the game. That in turn opens up offense for both Kevin Durant and Brad Beal.

It was nice to see once again Q1 Booker making an appearance. We haven’t seen it very much this season. His highest output in the first before Thursday night was 15 points against the Warriors...in the first game of the season. He could do better than that. The Suns can do better than that.

We hope that Frank Vogel continues to understand why Booker should be the focal point of the offense in the first and make this adjustment moving forward. It is a great way to start off the game. It is a great way to set the tone. It is a great way to utilize Devin Booker, a player who is in his prime and can shoulder the load, and who is hungry to help his team in any way he can.

Let him help his team by scoring.

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