Devin Booker hit a fantastic fade-away three in Jrue Holiday’s face to bring the Suns within three with less than 90 seconds left for his 40th point of the game, becoming the third player in NBA history with two consecutive games with forty or more points in the Finals. Booker notching this accomplishment in Game 5 also meant that we had all three players who accomplished the feat in the same building Saturday night. Giannis accomplished a similar feat in games two and three of this series, while LeBron James, the first one to do it, was also in the arena supporting his close friend Chris Paul.
Unfortunately for Booker, his historic Finals scoring accomplishment will not be the talk of the town heading into Game 6. Instead, all eyes will be on him and his team to respond, as the Phoenix Suns have now lost the last three games of the series and head back to Milwaukee for Game 6, facing elimination.
However, the series is far from over – the Suns were the best road team this season and have managed to close out all previous rounds with wins on the road. Phoenix ended both the Lakers’ and Clippers’ seasons at the Staples Center in a close-out sixth game, and with how the two games in Milwaukee went in this series, there is no doubt that Phoenix can force a deciding seventh game on their home floor.
Perhaps, Devin Booker will become the first player to have three straight forty-plus point games to lead his team to victory and avoid elimination. Booker is as good of an offensive player we have seen in these Playoffs, so letting him get into a rhythm does not seem like the ideal game plan for a team looking to beat Booker and the Suns. Milwaukee, however, appears to be willing to give up big games from Devin Booker as a part of their defensive strategy in these NBA finals.
Make no mistake about it, Devin Booker can get forty almost every night; that’s just how talented he is. What has made him so special in this year’s Playoffs is how he has used himself as a threat on offense to create opportunities for his teammates rather than only for himself. As the old saying goes, “You can’t take away everything, but you can make it difficult for great players to try and win ball games.” In games three to five, Milwaukee has been doing just that.
The Bucks have made a concerted effort to keep Booker away from the foul line, forcing him into contested jumpers while, most importantly, not overhelping. When most teams say they will not let Devin Booker beat them, Milwaukee has gone one level deeper, ensuring that Booker does not beat them from absolutely anywhere he wants on the floor. The strip of Jrue Holiday on Booker was the perfect execution of the Bucks’ defensive game plan. Play him physically without doubling when he was a live dribble and only trap when he picks up the ball. PJ Tucker did just that, and even he mistakenly jumped on the fake by Booker, Giannis quickly came over to crowd him. Booker was then forced to turn his back and into the strong hands of Holiday, who then stripped the ball and fed Giannis for the alley-oop. Game, set, match.
Perhaps Booker is poised to become the first player in NBA history to put up three straight games with forty points or more in the Finals, but just like us fans, the Bucks are not thinking about that right now. With Milwaukee being one game away from their first championship in fifty years, stats will not matter in Game 6; all both teams will want in the end is the win.
Booker has come a long way as a player, and that is largely due to the veteran leadership of his backcourt running mate, Chris Paul. Devin once celebrated his 70-point game with a recreation of the photo Wilt Chamberlain took in the locker room after his 100-point game, despite Booker’s performance coming in a loss.
This time around, we can be sure that Devin won’t celebrate the scoring accomplishment if the Suns ultimately lose Game 6. If Booker wants a reason to celebrate, he will have to find a way to attract double teams and get his teammates into a better rhythm throughout the game. If not, it is back to pick-up basketball for him, a scenario where he has been caught on camera for not appreciating being double-teamed.
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