EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Devin Booker drops 50 again, Suns come up short against Wizards

Mar 27, 2019, 10:55 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2019, 3:44 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Devin Booker is giving the basketball world a peek at what he can do for the Phoenix Suns when he’s fully healthy.

That’s not to say he will average 35-40 points per game anytime soon, but for the first time this season, Booker has been able to stay relatively healthy over an extended period of time.

Wednesday night’s matchup with the Washington Wizards was his 19th straight game played without being out, the first time this year he’s been able to play at least 15 games in a row.

On that run, Booker has been able to hit a certain level on the flame index he’s not reached consecutively before in his young career.

After scoring 59 points in Utah on Monday, Booker dropped 50 points in a 124-121 loss to the Wizards.

To go back to Booker’s health, that’s what he cited as the main difference when asked of his ability to trend upward at the end of the season despite the team’s current standing.

“That’s what I’ve been asking for all season is just be 100 percent healthy,” he said.

“When you’re going through games and you don’t [have] to (avoid) [making] this certain move or this certain movement because you’re scared of what’s going to happen it’s a whole different game. I have a free mind out there.”

At the age of 22, Booker became the youngest player in league history to score 50 or more in back-to-back games. Yes, that includes Wilt Chamberlain, who seemingly owns every ridiculous scoring record like this except for the fact that he was 23 years old in his rookie year.

He’s the 10th player to ever do it, the first in franchise history and is the only Sun ever to have at least three 50-point nights. He turns 23 the day before Halloween, by the way, in case you glossed over it earlier.

“You just feel it sometimes,” Booker described of the zone he was in. “Real hoopers know. You just know sometimes.”

Booker called the 50-spot in the first half, a 24 minutes in which he dropped 30 of his 50.

He said after the game that was his brother he was talking to and didn’t realize that it was caught on camera.

“At least I got it,” he joked. “I’m glad I got it. It would have looked bad if I didn’t.”

Once again, efficiency reigned supreme and this was not just some guy on a bad team chucking. A 19-of-29 mark from the field and 9-for-10 from the foul line. He added 10 rebounds and four assists to boot.

It’s a new career-high for Booker at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The obvious difference in the outings was Wednesday’s was a competitive game and not a 33-point loss that bordered on being labeled an actual basketball game with all the fourth quarter semantics.

To fast forward through a game that saw neither team pull away at any point, the Suns were down three points with under 30 seconds left.

Predictably, the Wizards forced the ball out of Booker’s hands late. The Suns drew up two plays that worked perfectly to counter Washington’s coverages.

The first was with Jamal Crawford handling and Booker actually setting a screen. Crawford drained a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left to tie the game.

Next, during a defensive possession in which the Suns tried to double Wizards star Bradley Beal, their double just wasn’t tight enough and allowed him to pass to an open Thomas Bryant for an and-one.

The Suns were back down three and took a timeout with under three seconds left.

Head coach Igor Kokoskov drew up the perfect play, getting the best 3-point shooter in the building Troy Daniels a wide-open look in the corner. Or, as Crawford aptly described him after the game, “butt naked.”

The quick-draw action took advantage of the Wizards defense waiting to see where Booker was going. As seen on the replay below, Booker never even moves out of the key, where a player in his position would usually wait before sprinting forward into the backcourt past a friendly screen.

Daniels shockingly missed and that was the game.

“Take that 10 times out of 10 and twice on Sundays,” Crawford said. “I was thinking about overtime already, honestly.”

After a three-overtime loss to Washington earlier in the season in which Bryant got the better of Deandre Ayton, we saw a rerun of that Wednesday. Bryant had 18 points and 19 rebounds while Ayton produced 14 points and 10 boards, uncharacteristically missing some easy looks around the rim and shooting under 50 percent (6-for-13).

The loss marks the Suns’ fifth in a row, but given they were without Josh Jackson, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and T.J. Warren again, competing is really all they can ask for at this point.

If the Suns can do that while Booker continues to play the best basketball of his career (and that’s saying something), it will be a satisfying end to an otherwise rather disappointing season.

Penguin Air

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