Booker Shines in Return from Injury, Leading Suns to Victory

by Cody Cunningham

Devin Booker had missed the previous six games due to a hamstring injury, but didn’t seem to skip a beat as he returned to action on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I feel great,” Booker said. “It’s the best I felt all season. I kept saying that before I came back, I wanted to be 100 percent healthy. Been playing through injuries all year and got a little contagious so just wanted to make sure I was fully ready to go tonight.”

The Suns have gone through many starting lineups throughout this season due to injuries and Saturday was no different as Head Coach Igor Kokoškov reinserted Booker into a brand new lineup. Booker was moved back to his traditional shooting guard role as De’Anthony Melton started at point guard with Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren and Deandre Ayton joining them as starters. 

As the Suns two leading scorers this season, Booker and Warren were both back on the court doing what they do best by putting the ball in the hoop. The duo combined for 15 points in the first quarter and by halftime had 22 as the Suns were down by just two heading into intermission. 

The Suns caught fire near the end of the third going on a 14-4 run as they took an 85-82 lead with just 12 minutes remaining. Derrick Rose opened up the fourth with a floater, but then the Suns began to take over. 

Josh Jackson responded with a floater of his own, followed by a couple Ayton makes mixed in with Bridges and Warren buckets. The Suns scored 11 straight points as they took the first double-digit lead on the game.

Booker reentered the game with just over five minutes remaining, but it would just be for security purposes as the Suns held onto their lead and closed out the Timberwolves 107-99. 

“It’s fun,” Booker said. “I’m just having fun playing with high energy, crowds involved, fans are involved, playing good basketball. Nothing more than that that I could ask for. Just going out there, playing the right way, playing together.” 

Booker didn’t look like a player coming off an injury as he scored a game-high 28 points on 62.5 percent shooting. He did a little bit of everything in his return tallying seven assists and seven rebounds in the victory.

“He’s a big part of this team and a big part of our offense,” Ayton said about Booker. “The load he takes every game is phenomenal and he’s just going to have to get certain guys open, it’s a different type of flow.”

Ayton dominated in the paint notching his rookie-leading 17th double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

“I think he was excited about first time playing against KAT. It’s a lot he can learn from,” Kokoškov said about Ayton. “He was huge defensively covering space, covering and his presence in the paint was huge in crunch time.”

Warren continued his hot shooting from deep finishing with three three-pointers while scoring 21 points. His jump in three-point percentage (44.7 percent) this year currently puts him on pace for the largest improvement from a previous season in NBA history at an over 22 percent increase.

Bridges led the way defensively for the Suns notching three blocks and two steals on the night while also putting up 12 points. After holding the Mavericks to just 15.2 percent three-point shooting the previous game, the Suns held the Timberwolves to just 20 percent from deep.

The Suns embark on a five-game road trip following this win as the team will be traveling to New York on Monday to face the Knicks. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.