Twelve minutes into Monday’s meeting with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, Devin Booker looked like he was on his way to a miserable night, having missed nine of his first 11 shots.
Things got better. A lot better.
After getting a long breather to start the second quarter, the third-year shooting guard out of Kentucky thawed out in a hurry, getting himself going with a pair of deep 3-pointers from the left wing sandwiched around a smooth turnaround fadeaway out of the post against Philly wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Before the Sixers knew what hit them, Booker was hot, the Sixers were in trouble, and the Suns were up 15.
Booker scored or assisted on 12 of Phoenix’s last 15 points in the opening half, and picked up right where he left off after intermission with three quick buckets in the first two minutes of the third quarter. When the Suns’ offense stagnated midway through the third, his ability to get to the line kept them afloat and the Sixers at arm’s length.
When the 76ers got the deficit down to seven four minutes into the fourth quarter, Booker came back in and carried Phoenix. He torched every Philly defender in his path — Robert Covington, J.J. Redick, Nik Stauskas, whoever — to outscore the Sixers by himself, 17-15, in the final eight minutes, before saying a long goodnight to Rookie of the Year frontrunner Simmons in style:
Booker finished with a season-high 46 points on 17-for-32 shooting, including a 5-for-8 mark from 3-point land, with 32 of ’em coming after halftime. The man, it is fair to say, was hot.
Josh Jackson trying to cool things off after Devin scorches the Sixers. Suns win 115-101 behind his 46 points. pic.twitter.com/rfLBQrsFCK
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 5, 2017
He’s been that way for a little bit now …
Booker since sitting out at Minnesota (4 games):
— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) December 5, 2017
… and, really, has been that way for most of the season:
Most 30-pt Games in Team’s 1st 25 Games – Suns History
2017-18 Devin Booker 10
1975-75 Charlie Scott 9 https://t.co/U4hDemzm1a
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 5, 2017
Booker, who only turned 21 the day before Halloween, now sits 10th in the NBA in scoring at 24.5 points per game, shooting 45.9 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point land and 87.3 percent from the foul line. He’s also kicking in 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 33.8 minutes per game, putting him on pace to be just the fourth player to average at least 24-4-3 in a season by his age 21 campaign. The other three: Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James. (Decent company.)
Booker had some help on Monday. Forward T.J. Warren chipped in 25 points on 12-for-19 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Veteran center Tyson Chandler added seven points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks and 36-plus minutes of physical defense on Embiid, who had 22 on 7-for-18 shooting for a Sixers team that looked sluggish from the opening tip.
Brett Brown said the Sixers didn't have any sting or bite tonight against the Suns.
— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) December 5, 2017
That was not a problem for Booker, who shook off a slow start to eat the Sixers alive over the final 36 minutes en route to Phoenix’s ninth win of the season.
An earlier version of this post omitted Michael Jordan’s name from the list of players to have averaged 24 points, four rebounds and three assists per game by his age-21 season. I regret the error.
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