PHOENIX – We should try giving Devin Booker various problems and see how he would solve them. I don’t even question whether he could or not. My car now makes this weird noise when I start it. The bedroom door keeps getting stuck. Our air conditioning unit is dying.
He would find a solution to fix everything. This man might as well have had a toolbox with him on the court Wednesday as he returned from a five-game absence, healing the Phoenix Suns on the court and dispelling vibrations in a 133-115 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Booker, despite a minutes restriction, finished with 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, four rebounds, five assists and two turnovers in 26 minutes.
With Minnesota (8-3) playing better basketball than anyone, Booker was in complete control against the NBA’s best defense.
“The pop was there, just playing with the rhythm,” Kevin Durant said. “This is what we need. It’s good to have our leader back.
Those who haven’t had the chance to witness his progression over the years will spend nights like Wednesday watching Booker orchestrate and believing it’s a giant leap from the ninth-year goalie , but he’s had this in him for a while now.
That said, he is expected to improve once again and the stars have aligned for him to feature him in a show directing role this year.
His pace in dissecting the defense was masterful, changing gears to create the gaps he wanted before capitalizing. Rudy Gobert, one of the greatest rim protectors of all time, returned in Defensive Player of the Year form and you wouldn’t have guessed it with the way Booker broke the anchor.
After missing five games with a right calf strain, Booker was +17 when sharing the court with Gobert for 17:40 of play. Gobert was -25 for the game overall and Booker was equal thread.
Better yet, in what we call the Steve Nash effect around these games, Booker made everything a lot easier for his teammates. Durant was able to score in certain pockets of the game, his preference rather than dominating him on the ball as he has been forced to do at times this season. Phoenix’s glaring turnover issues disappeared, with only three of the nine games coming in the first half, and all of them came either at the beginning or end of it.
“Adding Book makes everything easier for everyone,” Durant said.
These factors combined allowed Phoenix (5-6) to take a lead of 14 midway through the first quarter, a lead that grew to 20 by the second after Minnesota initially cut the deficit to six late in the period. opening. The Suns quickly moved up to 28 points in the third quarter and reached 110 points by the end.
Minnesota was fresh off a hard-fought victory the night before in the Bay against a short-handed Golden State Warriors team, coming out on top in critical moments, putting themselves in another position where they had to really scratch and claw to earn.
That type of fight didn’t materialize on Wednesday, even with the Suns’ gigantic fourth-quarter struggles recently.
Durant added 31 points (11 of 15) with six rebounds, six assists and two turnovers.
On a night when the Suns’ Big 3 of Bradley Beal, Booker and Durant were expected to play together for the first time this regular season, Beal (lower back spasms) was a late scratch, putting a damper on excitement in the Booker building. helped turn around.
Beal was initially listed as probable and reportedly attempting to make his Big 3 debut. He made his first appearance this season three games ago after the guard kept him on the sidelines for the first seven games of the season and didn’t look like him yet. Head coach Frank Vogel said Beal injured his back during the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which Beal continued to play. Vogel said Beal woke up with some “residual tension” Wednesday that had not eased until an hour before the report.
This is the second time plans regarding Beal’s availability have had to change due to his back, dating back to the preseason. Given this, the injury appears to be quite delicate at the moment and Beal is not able to play without some level of discomfort. Phoenix surely got Beal to the point where any risk of further injury was as low as possible, and he was only able to play three games. Until we see Beal play without grimacing and avoid any flare-ups over a stretch of decent-sized games, that’s a concern.
Even with Beal and Booker on minutes restrictions, the game would have been fascinating to kickoff, forcing the Timberwolves’ giant frontcourt of Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns to defend more on the perimeter and challenge someone one like a 36 year old player. Six-foot Mike Conley to take on a premium assignment like Beal.
The flip side was how Phoenix would handle that size, a dynamic we still got to see pretty visibly after the Suns opted to start Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon. The Suns didn’t have many problems, even with a 16-5 offensive rebounding disadvantage, and more importantly, they had tons of floor space thanks to the extra shots.
Phoenix’s supporting cast featured some nice outings, including Josh Okogie’s rebounding variety via his 12 points (3-for-3 from 3) after missing 12 straight triples over the last six games. Gordon (15 points) and Allen (14) also knocked down a trio of 3s and Drew Eubanks provided 13 points coming off the bench and the poster child of the season so far.
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The Suns did a fantastic job of executing their game plan to limit the dynamic Anthony Edwards, cutting off his space with bigs playing high on screen plays and taking pre-rotations on the back end. He wasn’t able to find any breathing room all night, a nod to Vogel’s defensive aptitude and postseason concerns about how Gobert-Towns operates in top environments. Okogie and Jordan Goodwin played a big role in holding Edwards to a season-low 13 points at 4-of-16 from the field and Vogel also screamed big specifically in that effort.
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