It was a battle of the Titans in the Valley of the Suns on Sunday evening, as Nikola Jokic did everything he could to take a 3-1 series advantage back to Denver. Instead, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant had different plans, helping the Suns race past the Nuggets 129-124 to even the series at two.
Many people were probably wondering why Jokic did not win the MVP after putting up a massive triple-double with 30 points, 17 rebounds, and 17 assists in game 3. After game 4, the questions are likely growing louder. Just one game after Devin Booker reached the magical feat of making 20 field goals, Jokic did the same, going 20 of 30; however, his 11 of 13 from the line helped push his total to a career-high 53 points. Fortunately for Phoenix, they had two superstars and a bench looking to match Jokic, shot for shot.
Booker again superb for the Suns
After his phenomenal performance in game 3, D-Book likely would return to earth and regress to the mean. Fortunately for the Suns, Booker averages 36 points in the playoffs, so regressing to his mean is different than most. Hitting his 36 points average was only part of the story for Booker, who was again magnificently efficient, hitting 14 of 18 shots at a 77.8% rate. Over the last two games, Booker is 34 of 43 from the field (79%), helping the Suns overcome Jokic’s big night.
Second stars are doing their part for both teams
It is almost unheard of to consider Kevin Durant and Jamal Murray secondary stars, but it is what they are when Jokic and Booker are playing like they are. Murray was fantastic for Denver, scoring 28 points on 52% shooting from the field while adding 7 assists and 5 boards. Luckily, Durant is finding his grove and matches Murray shot-for-shot. Durant shot a more KD’like 57.9% from the field on 11 of 19 shots. Just as important, KD again got to the line and hit 12 of his 13 free throw attempts to equal Booker’s 36 points.
A game after KD and D-Book combined for 86 points, Denver’s two stars punched back to combine for 81 points, outscoring the Phoenix phenoms by five points. Fortunately, the Suns got 40 points from their bench, and Phoenix leaves town following a critical win. Anything can happen with three games to go, but the pendulum has swung, and with the way Booker and Durant are playing, I would not bet against them.