After Devin Booker’s insane Game Five, he backed it up with another impeccable performance to help Phoenix reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade
The Phoenix Suns have defied the odds all season, whether it was when they achieved the second-best record in the NBA or when they destroyed LeBron James and the Lakers in Game One, and now they have done so once again by sending the historic franchise, and the face of the league, home in the first round–a first for James.
That’s right, James’ flawless first-round record of 14-0 has been tarnished and branded by the likes of Devin Booker who went absolutely off in the first two quarters of Game Six, much like he did in the opening quarter of Game Five where he went seven-for-ten from the field and two-for-two from three to finish Q1 with 18 points.
This time, in Game Six, he devoured the Lakers from beyond the arc by going six-for-six from deep before the second quarter even began, ending the first quarter with 22 points which were eight more points than the Lakers scored in the quarter as an entire team.
But Booker didn’t let up after the first quarter, he went into halftime with 33–over half of the Suns’ 62 total points–and seemingly put the entire city of Phoenix on his back before carrying them to the second round with his 47-point performance, going eight-for-ten from deep, nine-for-nine from the free-throw line, and 15-22 (.682%) from the field overall.
LeBron James could not do much without his superstar number two, Anthony Davis, to help take the pressure off him and his bedraggled group of Lakers who could not seem to get their footing or shooting together until late in the third quarter when they finally began to mount some sort of comeback.
Davis, who suffered a strained groin in Game Four, missed the last game but tried to put his injury aside for his team by starting Game Six. He ended up with zero points, one rebound, and one assist in the five and a half minutes he was able to play before his injury caused him to sit out the rest of the game.
James obviously needed Davis more than people might have initially believed, which showed in the Lakers’ lack of defensive awareness as well as the passive offense underneath the basket that they produced without him on the court.
Whether Davis was healthy or not, it was obvious the Suns had what it took to beat the defending NBA champs due to their leadership and determination, not to mention their three-point shooting which has improved tenfold since the addition of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder.
Booker’s performance will be remembered forever in the eyes of Suns fans, he kept “King James” and the Lakers from ever attaining a lead in Game Six and his 47 points were the most by a Suns player in the playoffs since Steve Nash scored 48 in ’05, both of which sit right behind Charles Barkley’s 56 points against Golden State in Game Three of the first round in 1994.
Yes, the Suns defied all the odds, including Vegas’ odds which had the Lakers winning the series (-150) before Game One ever tipped off, but they still have work to do.
The Suns now have to face off against the Denver Nuggets, who the Lakers defeated in the Western Conference Finals last season in Orlando, which will be a tough matchup considering the likely NBA MVP, Nikola Jokić, is averaging 33 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in this year’s playoffs.
And while Denver’s breakout star from the bubble last season, Jamal Murray, has been sidelined with a torn ACL since April there are still plenty of other weapons that the Suns must prepare for if they hope to have a similar outcome to this series as they did against the Lakers.
Namely, Michael Porter Jr., Denver’s main threat from outside the paint who is shooting 53.8% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc in these playoffs.
The Suns can celebrate and breathe easy today after doing something that the organization has not done since 2010, reach the second-round, but if they want to go even deeper in these NBA playoffs they are going to have to have a completely different game plan for their upcoming series.