Devin Booker Knocks Down Game-Winning Bucket vs Grizzlies
The Suns fell to the Grizzlies just last week in Memphis, but their matchup in Phoenix on Sunday featured one key difference: Devin Booker.
Booker missed the previous game between the two teams due to a hamstring injury, but after returning last game, the young star looked ready to avenge their loss and help bring an end to the Suns' seven-game losing streak.
The 5-2 Grizzlies weren’t going to let it be that easy though. They took a seven-point lead over the Suns after just the first quarter and went up by double-digits during the second. However, the Suns came out firing after the break as they not only tied the game, but went on a nine-to-nothing run to go up by five following halftime.
The Grizzlies eventually battled back to regain the lead and then matters worsened for the Suns as Booker picked up his fifth foul midway through the third quarter. He would have to make his way to the bench as the Suns would look to rely on their second unit to maintain the lead.
Booker returned to contest with a just under ten minutes remaining in the game, but the Grizzlies would extend their lead to 12 and the game looked to be coming to a close. Well, that was until Booker decided to take control.
Following some Booker free throws and a Mikal Bridges three-pointer, the energy in Talking Stick Resort Arena started to grow. Booker and Bridges began alternating three-point buckets as fans watched the Grizzlies lead begin to deteriorate.
With three minutes to go, Deandre Ayton stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 95. However, this was quickly followed up by a Shelvin Mack three-pointer to put Memphis back on top.
This setup Bridges for his biggest moment in the NBA thus far. With just under three minutes to go in a tight game, the Suns looked to their rookie to make the most of the opportunity. Booker fed Bridges beyond the arc and with two defenders diving in his face, the Villanova-product launched and drained the game-tying bucket.
“It’s really big to be playing crunch time minutes like that in your rookie season and performing,” Booker said about Bridges. “It’s really special.”
But with 30 seconds left in a tie game, the Suns knew exactly who to give the ball to. Booker wore down the clock as the seconds ticked away, began to drive, pulled up from midrange and hit the game-winner… Or so it seemed.
Mike Conley would respond with a make of his own and once again, the game was tied and the ball was in Booker’s hands.
“Ever since I was a kid, I just always wanted to be in that moment,” Booker said.
Besides being positioned on the left side of the court, you would have thought this was a replay of the first shot. He began to drive, but with three defenders in the area, he pulled up, let it go and splashed home the actual game-winner.
“That’s what he does,” Head Coach Igor Kokoškov said about Booker’s game-winner. “He’s proven that many, many times…. We appreciate everything he’s doing. So, yes, (at the) end of the game, he’s a guy who can land the plane.”
Booker went into the fourth quarter with only 11 points, but finished with a game-high 25 to go along with seven assists. The Suns finished the game with a 102-100 victory and now hope to build off this win going forward.
“It just feels good to win,” Booker said. “That’s what we’re out there for, to get wins and every win matters in this league. So, if you win by two or win by 30, it all counts as one win. For us, we’ve been stressing that if we get a win, it’ll change the energy around here.”
Bridges played a marquee role for the Suns down the stretch scoring 14 points off the bench, including four-of-five from beyond the arc.
“I love being on the floor with him,” Booker said. “He does everything it takes to win. He spaces the floor. He defends.”
For Kokoškov, Bridges provides much more than just what shows up on the stat sheet.
“A lot of things that Mikal is doing for us you can’t put in the stats,” Kokoškov said. “When he makes shots that’s obvious, but he’s a very reliable player. He’s very solid and very mature for his age. Not just when it comes to the game plan and execution, but overall, when it comes to the professionalism and everything else.”
The Suns will look to win their first back-to-back games of the season as they stay home to face the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. Be sure to catch to the action on Fox Sports Arizona.