Devin Booker's defensive kryptonite is a problem Suns need to urgently solve

The Phoenix Suns are down 1-0 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if they don't figure out how to get Devin Booker open looks, this will be a quick series.
Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game One
Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game One / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns find themselves down 1-0 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and there were not a lot of positives to take from their Game 1 beatdown. Despite having the Timberwolves' number during the regular season, they failed to take advantage of that fact, and at times looked like they were trying to be too cute in how they set up to try and win the game.

Kevin Durant was at his offensive best - and he looks in like to have a big series - while Bradley Beal came to play. His team high six assists were needed, but if anything the Suns will want him to be more aggressive and look for his own shot as the series progresses. Luckily for the franchise, that is a scenario that appears likely given how up for Game 1 Beal clearly was.

Then there is Devin Booker, who had an off night which came about for one glaringly obvious reason... Jaden McDaniels.

McDaniels was absolutely superb on the defensive end in the win, hounding Booker all over the court all night long. Finishing with nine points won't bother him, because there are two other stats which perfectly sum up how impactful he was. Playing a team high 38 minutes in the win, and helping to hold Booker to 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Ahead of this series, Timberwolves superstar Anthony Edwards made the below proclamation, which seemed truly outrageous at the time.

Putting anybody in the same sentence as the all-time great Durant - much less a player appearing in his seventh ever playoff game - seemed like the kind of soundbite that was going to come back to haunt Edwards. Only we know now why he had such confidence in his teammate, because his defensive duties in the win were varied and complicated, and he excelled every single time.

Some may have been confused by Edwards' statement, because McDaniels can't and didn't stop Durant getting whatever shot he wanted. But Edwards never had McDaniels matching up with Durant in mind, as both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns used their seven foot frames to try and slow him down.

Instead it was Booker who McDaniels stuck to throughout the game, while also terrifying Grayson Allen so much that he took only three shots from deep, and didn't make any of them. A far cry from the player who led the league in 3-point shooting this season. Check out the below plays to really get an idea of just how great an impact McDaniels had in putting Booker and Allen off their games.

In a vaccum, that second play is exactly what the Suns have badly needed this season. McDaniels plays with an intensity and desire on the defensive end which has been sorely lacking for a Suns team that have been careless with the ball, and did not lock in to get stops when they needed to throughout most of the regular season.

The game plan for the Suns from the moment they traded for Beal was to outscore every opponent that they came up against. Only this Timberwolves roster is built to swallow up high-scoring teams perfectly, with Gobert going to rightly get a ton of the credit. But if not for McDaniels annoying Booker for four-quarters, this game would have been closer than it ultimately was.

Worryingly for the Suns, there seems to be no way around McDaniels except for the hope that some of their role players go off and Durant has an even better performance in Game 2. Head coach Frank Vogel is surely going to try and run some plays to get Booker open away from McDaniels, navigating screens in much the same way Stephen Curry has throughout his Hall of Fame career.

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We have seen that simply switching Booker off McDaniels isn't going to work, because he fights through and around screens with all the tenacity of a dog chasing a bone. He locks on to Booker, and right now there doesn't seem to be anything that the Suns can do to stop him slowing their superstar scorer down.

Beal becoming more aggressive could help here - with McDaniels then having to make a choice between who to turn his attention to - but you get the sense that if the Timberwolves can greatly limited Booker as they did in Game 1, then it is their series to win anyway. Advantage McDaniels and the Timberwolves then, and it will be fascinating to see how the Suns respond throughout the series.