Booker Makes NBA History & Drops 40 as Suns Beat 76ers

Devin Booker Kelly Oubre Jr
by Cody Cunningham

The Phoenix Suns were off to a hot 4-2 start to begin the season, but their biggest challenge thus far would come on Monday night as the final undefeated team in the Philadelphia 76ers came to town. Devin Booker was averaging 38 points per game against the 76ers in their last four matchups and would continue his dominant play and make NBA history as the two teams tipped-off at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The 23-year-old led the way for the Suns in the first quarter, knocking down four-of-five shots for nine points. The Suns controlled the lead for the majority of the first quarter, going up by as many as eight, but an Al Horford three-pointer in the final second gave the 76ers a 31-29 advantage.

The second quarter looked all the same as the Suns battled back to a lead, but ultimately gave up a final three-point shot to Horford again as the 76ers entered halftime up 61-55. Aron Baynes joined Booker in double-figures as the duo combined for 25 first-half points. 

But Booker was just getting started. 

From midrange fades to deep threes to electrifying dunks, Booker caught fire coming out of the break and erupted for 16 of the Suns 26 third quarter points. Booker assisted in bringing the Suns back to within just one point by the end of the quarter and, already sitting at 29 points, was just eight away from his 6,000th career-point.

Ricky Rubio opened the fourth quarter at the free throw line, giving the Suns the lead and the team began to take off from there. Tyler Johnson hit back-to-back midrange jumpers as the Suns began the fourth on a 7-0 run.

Horford tried to quiet the crowd with a dunk, but following another Suns run led by a couple Rubio threes, the Suns pushed their lead up to seven. However, Horford once again guided the 76ers to another comeback and with three minutes to go, the game was all tied up at 102.

On the Suns next possession, Booker drove, faked out the defense and faded out of bounds on the baseline to put the Suns up by two and push him to 35 points, just two shy of 6,000. It wouldn’t take long for Booker to reach the milestone as Baynes found him driving baseline on the next possession. Booker drove, flipped up the acrobatic layup, drew the foul and drained the bucket.

6,000.

Before even attempting the free throw (which he hit), Booker became the 8th-youngest player in NBA history to notch 6,000 career points, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Wiggins and Shaquille O’Neal.

But the game wasn’t over quite yet. Kelly Oubre Jr. followed it up with one of the most clutch buckets of the season, but also one of the smoothest. Oubre hesitated at the three-point line to draw the defense, drove through traffic full steam looking like he was going to throw it down, but lightly laid in the basket to ensure the Suns took a 109-103 advantage.

The game-sealing play came on the defensive end as Tobias Harris drove to the basket only to be met by Baynes, who rejected the shot with less than a minute to go. The Suns ultimately closed out the game at the free throw line as the walked away with a 114-109 victory and handed the 76ers their first loss on the season.

The Suns improve to 5-2, their best seven-game start since opening 5-2 in 2013-14.

TOP PERFORMERS

Booker: 40 points, 15-19 FG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists

Rubio: 21 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds

Baynes: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists,  2 blocks

Oubre: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block 

KEY STATS

This was Booker’s 10th 40-point game, the second most in franchise history (Stoudemire, 15).

Booker became the first player in the NBA this season to make 15+ field goals and 3+ three-pointers while shooting 75% or better from the field and behind the arc. Last season there were only two such games in the NBA and they were recorded by Giannis Antetokounmpo (Feb. 6 vs. Washington) and Klay Thompson (Jan. 21 at L.A. Lakers). Booker’s performance tonight was the first in Suns history of a player making 15+ field goals and 3+ three-pointers while shooting 75%+ from both the field and three-point range (Basketball-Reference). 

The Suns shot 53.2% from the field, their fourth time 50% or better this season going 4-0 in those games. The Suns have posted a better field goal percentage than their opponent in each of their first seven games this season—the Suns’ seven-game streak outshooting their opponent is the team’s longest since seven straight from April 7-Oct. 28, 2010.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

COACH MONTY WILLIAMS ON THE WIN: “I’ve said it from day one, we’re going to monitor our progress month-by-month, but at the same time, this is a huge win. This is great for the fans, it’s great for our city. We got two hours to enjoy it, and then tomorrow I’ll start thinking about Miami. That’s the life of an NBA coach. I want our guys to enjoy it, but I got about two and a half hours and then I’m back to film. 

WILLIAMS ON BOOKER: “I’ve said it for a while, he’s a complete basketball player. He’s competitive, not afraid of the moment, he makes big plays, and the thing I like about Devin is he’ll get off of it. It wasn’t just his scoring, he’s a willing passer. He gets off of the ball and finds guys for open shots, but in those moments, we have to get out of the way sometimes. It’s not a structure, it’s just a really good basketball player going to work.”

BAYNES ON INCREASED MINUTES: “How can it not be fun? It is fun for everyone here involved. That is one of the good feelings we have right now is we understand that when we’re playing within the system and the ball is moving and everyone’s getting a shot, taking the best shot for the team. That is when it is fun, when we keep playing defense the way we are, it allows us to get out in transition. It is fun through sticking to the little things and doing the little things consistently and making the most of every single play, that is how we have our fun. Of course, it is fun out there.”

BOOKER ON 6,000 POINT MILESTONE: “Every day I wake up, I get another chance to come play the sport I love in the city I love. I try to take full advantage of it. I know it's cliche, but when people say it's the first time somebody is watching, it could be the last time somebody was watching you also. I take that in. Every day I wake up and step in here and I know I can affect people's lives and in positive ways. Everybody's excited, everybody's happy. So, you know, I just gotta keep working.”

WHAT’S NEXT 

The Suns will look to continue their hot start as they host the Miami Heat on Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.

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