NBA players who have tallied the most points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals in a single game this season.
USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON – The pregame question focused on Devin Booker.
Is he the best shooter you’ve been around?
“I’ve played with some great shooters,’’ Suns coach Earl Watson said, naming off a couple. “Ray Allen, Kevin Durant. He has amazing potential. His stroke is textbook.”
An hour later, Booker went out and showed as much. The second-year guard produced the highest-scoring game in franchise history, pouring in 70 points in a 130-120 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. While the Suns lost for the seventh time, Booker put together the highest-scoring game of the season, passing the 60 Klay Thompson put up against Indiana in October.
In the process, he became the third-youngest player in NBA history at 20 years, 145 days, to record a 50-point game, joining LeBron James and Brandon Jennings.
Throughout this stretch, most of the focus has been on Phoenix’s young players, which makes sense. Both rookie point guard Tyler Ulis and forward Alan Williams have made good use of their extended minutes – something that will serve management well in their short-term decision-making – but this also is an important time for Booker, a gifted scorer who already has one foot in the stardom pool.
By now, most know that in two years Booker has scored in ways not many have. Before turning 20 in October, he scored 1,087 points as a teenager, sixth most in NBA history. Of the five players ahead of him on that list – James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard – all but Anthony were All-Stars within their third seasons. Anthony made it in his fourth season.
Booker began this trip in a slump. While battling ankle soreness, he was 13 of 55 over three games entering Thursday’s Brooklyn loss. Booker said he wasn’t concerned. “I’m just missing a lot of shots right now,” he said then. “Same shots I’ve seen go in before.”
He showed signs of breaking out against Brooklyn, but cooled in the second half, shooting 9 of 26 but finishing with 28 points. Against the Celtics, Booker looked more like himself. Once he got rolling, he didn’t stop. He hit a bank shot in transition. He hit a jumper and was fouled. He scored in the post.
He even got some whistles.
This was an issue against Brooklyn, particularly in the second half. Booker doesn’t shy from contact, but against the Nets he didn’t get many calls. That night he led both teams in looks of disbelief. In Friday’s second quarter, Booker drove left, fell to the court and didn’t get a call. As Boston took off in transition, he shot a stare at the nearest official.
On Phoenix’s next possession, Booker took the ball in the post and lowered his shoulder into Boston guard Marcus Smart, the easiest offensive foul call of the night. Booker immediately turned and ran up court. It was if he wanted to make a point. And he may have. From that point on, Booker shot 21 free throws in the second half.
Booker broke his career high of 39 points in the final minutes of the third quarter. He hit 45 with nine minutes to go in the fourth. With 6:40 left, he scored in transition and was fouled giving him the sixth 50th-point game in franchise history. By this time the Garden crowd was into it, cheering for Booker to shoot every time he got the ball.
With 1:49 to go, Booker put back his own miss, breaking Tom Chambers’ record of 60 points scored against Seattle in 1990. Overall, Booker shot 21 of 40 from the field and made 24 of 26 from the foul line, both makes and attempts a career best. He also contributed eight rebounds and six assists.
Only problem: He didn’t have much help. The Suns again were short-handed, playing without forward T.J. Warren because of a foot injury. They missed their first 13 shots, falling behind by 20 in the first quarter. From there, it was an uphill battle. The Suns trailed by as many as 26, but pulled within 10 in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough.
And on this night, it didn’t matter.
Doug Haller writes for The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @DougHaller.