USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Booker’s evolution boosts Suns
LOS ANGELES – The Phoenix Suns were having to grind it out against a team that’s missing its two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
It shouldn’t be this hard against the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers, but Devin Booker said after losing Game 1 in this series, “It’s not going to be easy.”
The Clippers were battling the Suns by attacking the paint, playing aggressive and being relentless.
Terance Mann was smiling while Kevin Durant was scowling over the contact.
Clippers coach Ty Lue was digging deeper and deeper into his bag of defensive playbook.
Norman Powell had a monster Game 3 with a career playoff-high 42 points, and Russell Westbrook was playing with a level of ferocity and productivity that’s bringing him renewed respect and appreciation.
Still, the Suns simply have the better team with the top two players in the series and a third option in Chris Paul, who delivered in the fourth quarter of a 112100 Game 4 victory at Crypto.com Arena.
Kevin Durant and Booker combined for 61 points, and Paul scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth.
The Suns were the favorites to win this series even with a healthy Leonard, but now he’s missed the last two games and Phoenix was up 3-1 at press time.
Better yet, Playmaker Booker
Now they have Durant, who can get his shot whenever and find people, but Booker has the ball a great deal of the time — and Paul, who is third all time in assists, is playing more off the ball.
Can you hear any complaints about Booker running the offense?
Take a minute to make sure now. Didn’t think so.
Booker knows the system inside and out and is verbalizing it with confidence and authority.
Before one possession in the second half of Game 4, Booker was pointing everyone to their spots and yelling out signals like a police officer directing rush hour traffic in New York City.
Durant called Booker a bigger point guard. Landry Shamet says he’s calling the plays before Williams.
Now, Booker can still be turnover prone. He had four April 22, but none
April 20 in 45 minutes and he’s averaged eight assists in Phoenix’s two doubledigit victories in this series.
No one really says Point Book anymore because it’s no longer an experiment.
Playmaker Book is more appropriate. He’s making it happen for himself and his teammates.
More from Durant?
Durant admitted April 20 he came into the league with his “foot on the gas to score” when talking about his evolution at as a playmaker.
He tied a career playoff high with 11 assists in Game 1 and has had timely dimes in this series.
He’s still looking to find Deandre Ayton, even though Ayton’s hands have been unreliable of late.
Eventually, Kevin Durant is going to be Kevin Durant.
He didn’t need to be in the Suns’ Game 4 win over the Clippers.
Durant continued to be more energy efficient than a home with new insulation and windows, scoring 31 points on just 17 shots.
But no one should forget that this guy can be the hottest thing smoking when he decides to.
Durant is a four-time scoring champ with 14 40-point playoff games in his career.
It’s been huge that the Suns have been able to win without him going into takeover mode, because there’s going to come a game where Phoenix will need him to light up the scoreboard.
If Durant had to carry the bulk of the offensive load for the entire series, he’d eventually run out of steam.
As it stands, Durant has been able to get active rest, scoring the ball when it makes sense and making easy money the rest of the time.
But eventually, Kevin Durant is going to be Kevin Durant.