Devin Booker gets his groove back in W against Pacers 112-94
Unlike last game, where Devin Booker struggled, he put on a masterclass performance last night Devin Booker’s 35, combined Ayton’s 27, propelled Phoenix to victory tonight. Jae Crowder, Ayton, and Jalen Smith contributed double-digit rebounding performances, which was a huge talking point from their head coach pregame. Monty emphasized the ability to dominate the boards, as a kryptonite to Indy’s star frontcourt.
In the first half, Phoenix was a two-man show behind Booker and Ayton. Amazingly, DeAndre Ayton had one more three, than Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, and Mikal Bridges combined, through the first half. Phoenix was less than impressive from the field, shooting under 35% from the field and under 30% from beyond the arc. Devin Booker managed 12, alongside DeAndre Ayton’s monster line of 19-8. While they didn’t shoot great, they shut down Indy to less than 20 points in each of the first two quarters. They also outrebounded Indianapolis by 3 on the offensive glass. Rebounding offensively was a key factor for them, because they could limit the number of extra possessions Turner or Sabonis may have in the paint. Jalen “Sticks” Smith also contributed 9 first half boards off the bench, alongside Jae Crowder’s 11 (game total) rebounds, making a huge impact for Phoenix.
While Devin Booker was knocking down everything (see his tough and-one shot over Caris), Indiana struggled horribly. They failed to put up 40 points in the first half. Phoenix played tough defense, only letting the Pacers to the line four times, compared to their 14. The Pacers did not have any players on who had more than 10 in the first half, and Sabonis and Turner combined for an abysmal five points. Indy’s three point shot was the only thing keeping them within the game, as well as a poor performance from the usually consistent Mikal Bridges. Indy hit three more threes than Phoenix did, on a clip 8% better than Phoenix. As the icing on the cake, JaVale McGee ended the half with a put back dunk at the buzzer. McGee’s two-handed flush capped off an 8-0 run for Phoenix heading into the third.
In the third quarter, Indiana developed a nice groove offensively, behind Caris LeVert and Justin Holiday (45 combined points tonight). They went on 17-8 run, knotting up the game at 68 apiece. Phoenix responded with an 18-2 run after Indy took a lead, behind a 22-point third quarter from Booker. Phoenix didn’t look back after that, and closed out the game. As if Devin Booker’s 35-piece wasn’t enough, Chris Paul hit Sabonis with a successful “sham-god,” while Ayton had registered 27-11 for himself. Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Jalen Smith, and JaVale McGee all contributed to the dominant victory as well.
Phoenix is the better team, and they clearly proved that statement tonight. Tonight was a really nice response from Booker, who had almost 25 points more than the previous game where he fouled out. Through his team’s rebounding (outrebounded Indy by 9), and Booker’s ability to recognize bigs like Sabonis going high on him, Phoenix was able to dominate. Jae Crowder hit two big threes late, Devin Booker had a 22-point third quarter (35 on the night), and Chris Paul delivered his usual 9 dimes. Indy made a respectable run in the third, but Phoenix was able to keep the pressure on them, and eventually pull away. Considering how impactful Sabonis and Turner are, it was really impressive how the Suns dominated in the paint the way they did. They ended up winning convincingly, 112-94.
Phoenix plays Detroit on Sunday, which is another “should-win” game for them. Phoenix is now 34-9, maintaining the best record in the league. As for Indy, a few positive takeaways include their third quarter, Justin Holiday (seven threes), and Caris LeVert, but nothing else really went their way. Chris Duarte struggled, shooting 0-5 from three, alluding to the insignificant contribution from their bench. Indy’s 15-28 record sits at 13th place in the East, or the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference.