Devin Booker closes out clutch time to open Suns season with win vs. Warriors
Oct 24, 2023, 10:51 PM
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
With all the fuss about the Phoenix Suns not having a point guard, for those of you who haven’t been paying close enough attention, he’s been there the whole time.
Devin Booker, Earth’s best shooting guard, is also one of its best point guards. His playmaking has been at an elite level for a while now, and he proved it in the season opener, a 108-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday in San Francisco.
In an ugly game full of runs for both sides made possible by the muddy flow of play, the game was tied at 93 with just under 5:30 to go before Booker scored or assisted the Suns’ last 15 points. That included Phoenix’s last three possessions of the game in which Booker generated eight points off a trio of consecutive assists.
Even better, Booker manipulated the defensive coverage in three different ways.
For the first in a one-point game with just over a minute to go, Booker had center Jusuf Nurkic re-seal on a screen to drag the help in Booker’s own direction. And also in the process, he opened up the big man’s dive so former teammate Chris Paul was forced to cover it. That left Josh Okogie alone in the corner.
Next time down, a clever set saw Eric Gordon slither into the play as the ball screen happened, making Stephen Curry cut off a downhill Booker. Golden State did not want that switch to stick, so it tried to scatter back to the original matchups, but that resulted in an open Gordon on the wing.
With the dagger on some precision Ezio Auditore from “Assassin’s Creed” would be jealous of, Booker, in a way he hadn’t on the previous two looks, stepped into the space off the ball screen as if he was going to rise and fire on a pull-up 3. Booker fully elevated to bait Kevon Looney’s help all the way up, freeing up Nurkic with a wide-open lane for the short roll finish on a beautiful dime.
Booker ended the night with 32 points, six rebounds, eight assists, a steal and six turnovers on 13-for-21 shooting for a game he was questionable for due to a sore left big toe. He scored 15 points in the game’s first seven minutes and led a charge at the end of the first half that had Phoenix up 15 at halftime.
But the Warriors’ 22 points off 19 Suns turnovers kept the home squad in it, and Golden State eventually led by eight in the late third quarter.
Phoenix, however, through some huge struggles for Kevin Durant, Grayson Allen and Gordon got enough from Jordan Goodwin, Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Okogie and Yuta Watanabe across this stretch and others to eventually retake the lead and let Booker take over from there.
Gordon, to his credit, made a few plays in the early fourth quarter as well through his own issues. He hit a 3 after missing his first seven, made a nice dish and picked up a clutch steal. He finished the game 4-of-16 while Allen was 0-for-6 (0-of-5 from 3). Considering both are expected to help fill the void when someone like Bradley Beal (low back tightness) doesn’t play, it’s remarkable Phoenix won this game with Durant shooting 7-of-22 as well.
Nurkic had some problems defensively but the Suns will take them when he has nights like this with 14 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Okogie was nearly Phoenix’s second-leading scorer with 17 points, and each of his four offensive rebounds felt monumental.
Curry (8-of-20), Paul (4-of-15) and Klay Thompson (6-of-18) couldn’t buy a basket all night long. It was a very physical game that affected shot making, one Draymond Green (ankle) would have been perfect for had he played. No one except Booker was able to find a rhythm through the slog. Golden State shot 10-for-43 (23.3%) from 3.