The Phoenix Suns have now won two games in a row after a five-game losing skid, with a win against the New Orleans Pelicans. During the game, Devin Booker took charge and willed his team to victory.
The Suns added another win to their record, coming off a win against the Los Angeles Clippers. After an underwhelming 14-point game against the Clippers, the three-time All-Star showed up big-time against New Orleans. Booker’s 58-point performance helped give the Pelicans their third-straight loss. Despite not having their usual contributors, Phoenix made it known that they can hang with the best teams in basketball. Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Cameron Johnson were all unable to play due to injuries.
The Suns are currently the fourth seed, which was the result of their recent losing streak. Their new conference rivals didn’t make it easy, as the Pelicans led almost the entire game. The duo of Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum scored 30 and 27 apiece. McCollum even went blow-for-blow against Booker during the first half, but the latter outperformed him in their matchup.
With that said, here are three takeaways from Booker’s most recent high-scoring game.
Devin Booker started hot, never cooled off
The Suns started the game with an 8-2 run in the first two minutes of the first quarter. Booker was responsible for five of those points, which helped him find his rhythm early on. In some games, this season, making early shots was where the All-Star guard has struggled. He ended the first quarter with 12 points and carried off in the second quarter. The former Kentucky Wildcats guard added ten points to conclude the first half with 22 points.
Throughout the game, the 6-foot-5 All-Star played intelligent offense. Booker forced defensive switches against players like Dyson Daniels and Jose Alvarado. The Pelicans assigned Herb Jones to the Suns guard, but Phoenix imposed mismatches to favor them.
Booker’s efficiency on the floor played an enormous part in their win. He attempted 35 shots, made 21, giving him 60% in the field, and went 6-for-12 from beyond the arc. He could’ve gone for 60 but missed his last attempt from deep. Speaking of his final shot attempt, he tried to give their new rivals a taste of their own medicine. In the final seconds of their second-season matchup, Williamson did a 360-windmill dunk. The one-time All-NBA player sent a message that he didn’t forget the taunt.
The Suns’ bench still lacks depth
With tons of injuries to the roster, opposing teams have exploited Phoenix’s lack of depth. Even players who usually don’t see any playing time have been in the rotation. Veteran center Bismack Biyombo has filled the hole left by Ayton, who has missed the last two games due to a left ankle injury. Even guys like Ish Wainright and Josh Okogie, who have played fewer minutes this season, had lengthy on-court opportunities in their last outing.
The Suns had 16 bench points against the Pelicans, who had 29. The bench players need to step up as their team looks to find additional help for the starters. The hyped-up Landry Shamet has been underperforming compared to his previous season. During the 2021-22 season, Shamet averaged 8.3 points while shooting 39.4% from the field and 36.8% from the three. This season, he’s scoring 6.9 points while shooting over 38.3% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the arc.
The second unit needs to step up their game, as no one knows how long the starters will be able to sustain their excellent play.
Josh Okogie needs more playing time
Josh Okogie is quietly making his mark with the Suns this season. He started slow, averaging only five minutes in his first ten games. But as injuries continued to be a trend for the team, Monty Williams gradually increased Okogie’s minutes.
It became a clever move, as the two-way wing player’s skills fit perfectly to Pheonix’s needs. Last season was his final campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his numbers were extremely underwhelming. He averaged 2.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 0.5 steals. This time around, Okogie has increased his production, and it’s been effective for Phoenix.
- Josh Okogie stats in 2022: 4.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 SPG in 10.7 MPG
In the game against the Pelicans, Okogie played 23 minutes coming off the bench. He didn’t score a ton of points, but he still made an impact. The 6-foot-4 wing player only had seven points, but his six rebounds were game-changing.
He knows he won’t be able to help out as much on the offensive side; instead, he sacrificed his body in hustle situations. The tenacity the 24-year-old displayed on 50-50 occasions was vital to their win against New Orleans.
Although his efficiency from distance needs more work, Okogie deserves a spot in the team’s rotation.