Devin Booker continues to show his Mamba Mentality.
Through the first two games of the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks defense had been ripped apart by the Phoenix Suns’ ball movement and outside shooting. Chris Paul is excellent at exploiting mismatches especially when Brook Lopez switches out on him and is at his mercy when on the perimeter.
Outside of their Big 3 featuring Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, Suns‘ GM James Jones has assembled a versatile team capable of hitting the outside shot and being switchable players on defense. Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Torrey Craig have proven to be capable 3-and-D players that allow their stars to flourish and have the space to operate.
Unfortunately, injuries continue to be a storyline in this postseason with the Suns losing Dario Saric to a torn ACL in Game 1. This amazing postseason by the Suns could’ve been derailed if Chris Paul’s shoulder contusion in the first found against the Lakers was more serious.
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While the Suns were fortunate to face teams without their stars, they also dealt with their own adversity with Chris Paul missing the first two games of the Clippers series due to health and safety protocol. Booker broke his nose against the Clippers, but didn’t miss any games and continues his stellar postseason with a smooth offensive game and spirited defense that has the Suns two wins away from their first NBA title. In Booker’s maiden postseason run he has proven that the stage isn’t too big for him to shine.
Booker has shown the ability to rise to the occasion with amazing performances such as scoring 47 points to end the Lakers’ season in a closeout Game 6, scoring 34 points to help the Suns sweep the Nuggets in Game 4, and posting a 40 point triple-double to start out the series against the Clippers in the absence of Chris Paul.
Booker’s first two games of the NBA Finals were great as well with 27 and 31 points in two Suns wins. After a subpar 10 points in Game 3, Booker bounced back in a huge way in Game 4. His most recent effort, a 42-point offensive explosion in a close Game 4 loss, shows his winning mentality and offensive prowess.
If Booker didn’t have five fouls to start the fourth quarter forcing him to the bench after absolutely torching the Bucks for 18 points in the third quarter, the outcome could’ve easily been in the Suns’ favor, who lost 109-103.
Booker still ended up with 42 points after hitting a variety of mid-range jumpers and Kobe-esque fadeaways that proved there’s nothing a defense can do when he has it rolling. Booker has now scored the most points in a player’s first postseason run in NBA history with 542 points through 20 games.
Booker’s quick release, balance, and spatial awareness allow him to make a variety of shots consistently. Booker continues to live up to the quote written on his shoes, “Be Legendary,” which was said to him by his mentor, the late great Kobe Bryant. Booker has that killer mentality and competitive nature which allows him to block out any distractions and just focus on putting the ball in the hoop, much like Kobe did. Expect Booker to continue to knock down tough shots in the remaining games and for the rest of the team to play better in Game 5.
The most consequential offseason signing has proven to be Chris Paul who took a young core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges all the way to the NBA Finals. The Suns were fortunate to face the Lakers without Anthony Davis for the last half of the series, the Nuggets without Jamal Murray, and the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard. The Suns were able to take full advantage of those situations to come out victorious.
The Suns are now being tested against the Bucks in the most competitive Finals since the 2016 Cavaliers vs. Warriors series. While LeBron James has typically dominated this time of the season making the NBA Finals in 10 out of the last 15 seasons, it’s great to have new players featured on basketball’s biggest stage.
The storyline of a 36-year-old Chris Paul being on the cusp of winning his first championship after 16 NBA seasons is absolutely astounding and intriguing. The series is now tied 2-2 with Game 5 scheduled for Saturday.