The Phoenix Suns lost a close one to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night in a game where Devin Booker could have proven the haters wrong. Instead, he proved their point.
It was all set up so well. The day after Devin Booker had been unjustly snubbed from the NBA All-Star Game, the Phoenix Suns faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Paul, one of the players who stole his spot.
Surely, Booker was going to go off for 100 on the Suns’ way to a blowout and prove to the haters out there how wrong they were for not including him.
“But Chris Paul makes plays to help his team win!” they say.
“Devin Booker needs to learn how to win games, not just put up points!” others bemoan.
With the game tied at 99 at the 2-minute mark, the stage was set for Devin Booker to win the game for the Phoenix Suns and destroy this, “But he doesn’t make his team win,” argument.
Instead, unfortunately, he gave the squawkers more ammunition with which to eviscerate him.
Booker, with a chance to give the Suns the lead, missed a 16-footer. His team would get the ball back with the game still knotted up, though, so the Suns were still in good shape.
Enter Chris Paul.
Still, I thought to myself, Booker’s got this.
Still, I thought to myself Booker…oh my gosh, what is Booker doing?!
With this team down two and 45 seconds left, Booker intentionally fouled Chris Paul. This seemed to be done out of pure frustration, lack of situational awareness, or both.
The Suns did not have to foul; they just needed one good defensive stop and they would have had the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game. But Devin Booker, perhaps out of pent-up frustration, hacked the guy who is going to the All-Star game in his place, and further fanned the stereotype of not making plays to help his team win.
Paul, of course, made both free-throws and it was time for the Phoenix Suns to intentionally foul for real. They made it close but never had a shot legit shot to win the game after that.
Booker shot 0-4 in the fourth quarter, and two of those shots came from 30 feet out. Credit Arizona State’s own Luguentz Dort for some of that. The former Sun Devil played aggressive defense on Booker all night, and it led to some of Booker’s frustrations (and seven turnovers).
To further twist the knife, Booker finished the game with 27 points and 5 assists, numbers right at this season average that detractors say don’t matter because he doesn’t make the plays to get his team wins.
Instead, it was Chris Paul who made all the smart, heroic, and All-Star caliber plays down the stretch to will the Oklahoma City Thunder to their seventh straight road victory.
This is kind of like when I tell my wife she always leaves half-drunk cups of water all over the house. She claims she always picks them up, and on top of that, always empties the dishwasher, and hand-cleans the wine glasses, and I’m just nit-picking about one or two times here and there.
I go to the far side of the couch and pull out three half-filled cups of water and show them to her. Then she fouls me intentionally, rolls her eyes, and grabs the cups out of my hand.
To be fair, I still think my wife is an All-Star, but the timing of this stray water cup argument did not go in her favor.
The same goes for Devin Booker. He is still, absolutely, a 100% All-Star, but man, he walked straight into the haters’ knife in this game.
From here, the only thing left to do is learn and move on. Suns fans are sick of lesson-filled losses, but yet, here we are swallowing another one. Besides, it is just one game. That is what we’ve told ourselves 28 times now.
The Phoenix Suns have seven more games before the All-Star break to build some momentum toward the 8th seed, and James Jones only has six days to get Devin Booker some freaking help.