PHOENIX – While the Milwaukee Bucks breathe a sigh of relief at the Phoenix Suns’ neck on Thursday, threatening to erase a one-time 15-point lead and take home a series split, the Suns relied on the guy who ticks off Chris Paul when he does not. exactly what he did in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Shoot. And shoot more.
Devin Booker scored nine of his team-high 31 points in the final frame and hit a trio of timely triples to stave off the Bucks’ comeback attempt. The Suns had a historic night as a team outside the arc in the 118-108 victory.
“Those are the moments he lives for,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said of Booker. “Doesn̵
The Bucks started the fourth quarter with a 6-2 sprint to cut the Suns lead to six, as Booker with 7-foot Brook Lopez, who velveted a hand in the face, lowered a side step 3 to push the lead back to nine with 9: 41 left.
A few minutes later, after Milwaukee had pulled within seven, he hit back-to-back 3s in 31 seconds to balloon the lead up to 13 and sent the crowd to madness.
And that led to the Bucks staring down into a 2-0 series hole.
“Every time Book hit a 3 or did something, you could just tell it just melted them down,” Suns guard Mikal Bridges, who scored 27, said of Milwaukee. “[They were thinking] like ‘Dang, we were right there.’ “
It was Booker’s eighth game with 30 plus points in these playoffs out of the 18 games Phoenix has played on its way to the championship round. His 490 points in total this record season ranks third all-time for a player competing in his first playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, followed only by Rick Barry (521) and Julius Erving (518).
“The case of Devin, he shoots the same way first quarter, fourth quarter, does not matter, his shot looks the same,” Williams said. “It’s a guy who’s put a lot of work into his shot, but the mentality, he’s calm in these moments. So we’re grateful for those contributions in these moments.”
Paul, who complemented Booker’s offensive outburst with 23 points and eight own assists, was a little more pointed with the bar he has set for his 24-year-old teammate.
“If Book shoots it, I expect it to go in,” Paul said. “I get mad at him when he does not shoot.”
Booker finished 7-of-12 from 3 on a night where his team went 20-for-40 and tied the record for second-most 3s ever made in a final game.
“I mean, the guys are working on it,” Williams said of his group’s production. “We have an easy-to-fly mentality.”
Booker hit 10 of his last 15 attempts after starting 2-on-10 and got sharper as the game continued. He became the sixth player in final history to finish with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and five 3s – along with Stephen Curry (who did it four times), Kevin Durant (twice), LeBron James, Draymond Green and Rashard Lewis .
But while teammates marveled at his play – “He will not run from any match, match, situation that the basketball court presents,” said Jae Crowder – Booker gave the credit back to those with whom he shares the court.
“It’s just teams,” Booker said. “Team basketball. I think a couple of [the shots] were open and we were preparing for these moments. “
For Paul, who is within reach of the title he has been chasing for 16 years, he said he has appreciated pairing with Booker in that pursuit.
“He just stays in attack mode the whole game,” Paul said. “And that’s what I love about him.”