Oftentimes with the Phoenix Suns this season, you can tell what kind of game it’ll be after the first 12 minutes in a game. That’s never more true than when star guard Devin Booker is preying on defenses early and often.
Looking at Booker’s best first quarters through 39 games, the Suns are 9-2 when he scores at least eight points in the opening frame and 4-0 when he scores at least 10. Furthermore, the Suns are 6-1 when he makes at least four shots, and in each of those quarters he’s making at least 50% of his shots.
Though most of us could agree that Booker’s playmaking has been solid as he’s taken on most of the point guard duties at a career-high 7.7 assists and a third-best 11.7 turnover-%, the effect isn’t the same when he opens a game focused on that.
When Booker dishes at least four assists in the first quarter, the Suns are 4-3, and two of the wins are quarters with at least eight points as well.
Comparatively, Bradley Beal has just three games of at least seven first quarter points — where the Suns are 2-1 — and no games of at least 10. The Suns won the only game he had at least four assists.
Though Durant’s volume of high-scoring first quarters dwarfs that of Beal, it’s to much more mixed results. In games with at least eight first quarter points for Durant, the Suns are 8-8 and not much better with at least 10 points at 6-4. Phoenix won the only game with at least four assists for Durant (six), and he added 10 points in that opening frame.
Plus, there’s something abusive about the way Booker attacks defenses when he’s on, tormenting defenders and sending coaches into spirals.
For example, let’s take it back to Thursday’s win over the Lakers when Booker had his best first quarter of the season so far, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
taking a look back at devin booker tormenting the lakers defense with 16 points in the first quarter on 6-of-10 shooting last thursday pic.twitter.com/emk5bicAhL— Damon Allred (@iamdamonallred) January 16, 2024
The way Booker attacked his defenders, especially Austin Reaves then later and throughout the rest of the first half Max Christie, frustrated the Lakers to no end, challenging foul calls and sending in early substitutions.
That’s the sort of game-wrecking offensive player that Booker can be when he’s operating at his best.
The Suns went on to win that game 127-109, and that score makes it feel closer than it was.
After the game, Booker said his mindset at the start of the game was “to be aggressive,” and said Durant tried to bring that out of Booker before the game without worrying about Durant’s touches. “Having a mate like that out there with you to give you that much confidence and let you rock out is important.”
“Sometimes it’s good to reiterate that to your teammates so they can go out there and have a free mind,” Durant later added. “So as much as I can, I try to put that in the ear of my guys.”