Devin Booker’s greatness gives Suns, city of Phoenix chance at redemption

May 6, 2023, 12:45 PM | Updated: 12:50 pm

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns walks down the tunnel following Game Three of the NBA Western C...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns walks down the tunnel following Game Three of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals at Footprint Center on May 05, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Win on Sunday, and everything changes. The series will be tied heading back to Denver, but the Suns will possess a significant psychological advantage. The Devin and Kevin Show might be the hottest show on the planet.

They are still a flawed team. Chris Paul is injured. Sulking or not, Deandre Ayton is playing soft and tired as if he were the one who turned 38 years old on Saturday. The dramatic shift in bench rotation might be nothing but fool’s gold.

There is a good chance the Suns are still a year removed from their best shot at an NBA championship, requiring a full offseason to fill in the holes on this roster.

Remember, Curt Schilling arrived in Arizona in July 2000. The Diamondbacks weren’t champions until the following season when the front office could properly supplement their dynamic duo of Schilling and Randy Johnson.

But something else is becoming clear after the Suns’ 121-114 win in Game 3: Booker and Kevin Durant are going to be a tough out for anyone, including these Nuggets.

Booker is literally going places, and he gets wherever he wants to go on a basketball court. He is now as quick as he is powerful. He is ascending to the top of the NBA, and you can almost feel the heat inside of him.

He might be the hungriest player in the playoffs, and that’s saying something.

It only gets harder from here. If opposing coaches believed deep down that two could never beat five – that Booker and Durant could not produce at playoff levels that were both elite and sustainable – well, that idea died Friday night. Booker scored 47 points, making 20-of-25 shots. Durant scored 39 points on a night when he missed 19 times. But like a great player with great experience, Durant knows how to get to the free-throw line when his shot isn’t falling.

Durant’s greatness hasn’t always been on full display, but he always produces. Think how different his Game 3 looked compared to Booker’s, and yet he scored only eight fewer points. Now think of having to eliminate this historic twosome, a team that just prevailed in a must-win playoff game where the passive Ayton was benched in favor of Jock Landale.

It was a wonderfully bold move from Monty Williams, who chose to reward effort and hustle (Landale) over skill and potential (Ayton) in one of the most important games he’s ever coached. The Suns’ head coach was rewarded handsomely in return.

Adjustments are surely coming from Denver head coach Michael Malone. But adjustments only go so far when they encounter greatness, and Booker is not only serving his ambition. He is serving a city yearning for redemption. Where no task seems too much to ask.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta on weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7.

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