EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Devin Booker fills in gaps for Team USA’s quarterfinal win vs. Spain

Aug 2, 2021, 11:39 PM | Updated: Aug 3, 2021, 10:22 am
Devin Booker #15 of Team United States reaches for a loose ball against Team Spain during the secon...
Devin Booker #15 of Team United States reaches for a loose ball against Team Spain during the second half of a Men's Basketball Quarterfinal game on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on August 03, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Everyone who really knows Devin Booker’s game was excited to see how he would adapt to playing on a loaded men’s basketball Team USA roster in the Olympics.

The expectations were the star Phoenix Suns shooting guard would fill in the gaps as more of a role player, doing what is best to help his team win, and Booker even exceeded those in the Americans’ 95-81 win over Spain in the quarterfinals.

Booker was phenomenal and a big reason why there wasn’t an upset in the midst. He recorded nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals, zero turnovers and was a game-high plus-22 in 26 minutes, doing all the little things. Even on a 4-of-13 shooting night, he was huge.

“It just shows you how all-around D-Book is,” Team USA forward Kevin Durant told reporters in a postgame Zoom. “Lot of people look at him because he’s such a pretty scorer, he can do things so effortless. But he is a savant. He wants to be an all-around basketball player.

“You seen it tonight, grabbing rebounds, going in mixing up with the bigs, switching, guarding out on the perimeter, making passes. Then he makes such timely shots for us.”

In what has been the main problem for the United States in Olympic play, a stagnant offense was relying on three-point shooting when a roster built around versatile ball-handlers should continuously be attacking the basket.

Booker was really the only player outside of Kevin Durant through the first quarter with the proper mindset. With that and a hot start for former Suns point guard Ricky Rubio, who scored 13 of Spain’s 21 points in the first quarter, the Americans were down two.

It got even worse in the second quarter, with the deficit reaching nine points. But Durant performed a rescue act to have the game tied at halftime.

From there, head coach Gregg Popovich’s halftime message got through, presumably about defense and getting the ball into the key.

USA started the third quarter on a 22-6 run. From extra passes to steals to open 3s, Booker was doing his best impersonation of Suns teammate Mikal Bridges in being the glue guy for the Americans through repeated impact plays all over the floor.

He exited play with his team up 13, but a 7-0 spurt by the Spaniards to close the quarter made it a game again heading into the fourth only down six.

That’s where Spain would once again make things interesting, but Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum combined for seven straight key points while Durant and Booker rested.

Those two came back in, and even with Rubio still rolling, the Americans had figured out their offense and it was too late.

Rubio was unreal, finishing with a game-high 38 points in what will likely be the last Olympics for a legendary Spanish golden generation of him, Pau and Marc Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull.

Durant had a team-high 29 points, and it was a necessary 29, as the Americans continue to look too reliant on their star man.

Team USA now guarantees a spot in the medal round and will draw the winner of Australia and Argentina in the semifinals.

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