Devin Booker shrugs off historic efficiency as Suns even series
PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker doesn’t want to be bothered with digging too deep into the analysis of his historic hot streak.
Booker continued his phenomenal playoff run by scoring 36 points, matching teammate Kevin Durant‘s total, while going 14-of-18 from the field in Phoenix’s series-evening 129-124 win over the Denver Nuggets in Sunday night’s Game 4 at Footprint Center.
“Man, I’m just trying to win,” Booker said. “I always say, and it’s something that I’ll tell KD, like throw that efficiency s— out the window. I don’t care about that. Just keep going, keep attacking, keep being aggressive.”
But Booker’s efficiency has been astounding throughout the playoffs and especially in the past two games of the Western Conference semifinals series.
Booker has now scored 331 points during this postseason, the most by any player through nine playoff games since Michael Jordan in 1990, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Booker has done so with a 70% true shooting percentage, the best ever by a player who scored at least 300 points over a span of nine playoff games.
Since the Suns left Denver facing an 0-2 deficit in the series, Booker exploded for 83 points in Phoenix’s two home wins while shooting 79.1% from the floor. He made 20 of 26 jump shots in the pair of victories, hitting at a clip (76.9%) that ranks as the best over two playoff games in the decade that Second Spectrum has done player tracking among a group of more than 900 players who attempted at least 25 jumpers.
“I know the spots where I’m supposed to be aggressive and where I’m supposed to make ’em pay,” said Booker, who also had 12 assists in Sunday’s win. “I talked about transition earlier and just trying to get out and play fast, so they can’t set their defense and set their double-team. I don’t usually get open shots. So this is a new thing with having KD’s gravity on the floor.”
Durant delivered his best performance of the series Sunday, scoring 36 points on 11-of-19 shooting, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out six assists.
It marked the first time two teammates each recorded at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists in consecutive games, regular season or playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And Durant believes that the best is yet to come for a duo that has played only 17 games together, nine of which have come during the playoffs.
“To be honest, we’re still learning each other, learning which plays work for both of us, which plays work for our team as well,” Durant said. “But at the core of it, it’s just all about playing ball and getting to your spots and just playing aggressive. I think we both do that. Book is always comfortable out there in any spot on the floor, and I feel like I’m the same way. The more reps we get, the better we going to get.”
Booker already has six 35-plus-point performances in these playoffs, the most ever by a Phoenix player during a postseason. His past two have occurred while adding significant facilitating responsibilities with Chris Paul sidelined by a strained left groin.
It’s not just the sheer numbers that Booker is producing, as remarkable as they are. He frequently hits momentum-shifting shots, such as the pair of 3-pointers he made in the final minute of the third quarter to push the Suns’ lead to six points despite the brilliance of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who scored 18 of his career-playoff-high 53 points in the frame.
“He looks for those moments to not just make those shots but to send a message to his team that he can carry us,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of Booker.
The Suns also got a big lift off the bench from guard Landry Shamet, who scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including five 3s. He consistently capitalized on the attention the Denver defense paid the Suns’ stars, hitting open shots when the ball swung to the backside.
Phoenix’s front office anticipated this sort of explosive offense when the Suns made the blockbuster midseason trade to pair Durant with Booker. Injuries limited Durant to only eight regular-season games after the trade, so Phoenix is still figuring out a lot of things on the fly, with Williams’ rotation varying significantly from game to game. But the belief in the superstar pair’s potential keeps building.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a ceiling,” Booker said. “I don’t try to put any restrictions on anything that I do or ceilings on anything that we do as a team. We’ve also been going with different lineups through this series, too, so it’s a lot of new for us, but that excuse is out the window. That’s a regular-season thing. It’s time to win basketball games.”