Suns win Game 3 over Nuggets behind Booker’s 47-point performance

AP Photo/Matt York

The Suns are back in this series after defeating the Denver Nuggets 121-114 in Game 3 to make it 2-1.

While the role players pulled through and Kevin Durant poured in 39 points in Chris Paul’s absence, it was Devin Booker who willed this team to the finish line.

Booker dropped 47 points on an astounding 20/25 from the field. He added nine assists and six rebounds to boot.

“Can’t say enough about Book,” Durant said. “I’m at a loss for words. Just how he approaches the game, how he’s the leader of this team…how he brings it every single day and we just follow his imprint. We rally around him.”

“Book – he was amazing from start to finish,” head coach Monty Williams said. “Determination. Reading the defense, getting off the ball, and even defensively – just competing…He just competes every time he steps on the floor.”

“Understanding that I’m gonna have more on-ball responsibility,” Booker said. “Still trying to find that balance of being aggressive and making sure everybody’s involved…I understand it opens things up for my teammates when I play that way…just taking what the defense gives me.”

Durant’s 39 wasn’t quite as efficient (12/31 FG), but he earned every bit of it.

Since his shot wasn’t dropping, thanks in part to another solid display of defense from Denver’s Aaron Gordon, getting to the charity stripe was crucial.

He forced the issue, taking 16 of the team’s 18 total free throws.

“I’m just trying to drive,” Durant said. “I missed so many good looks early…the second quarter I just tried to put my head down and get to the rim…tonight was one of those nights I couldn’t find one to fall, so just tried to be effective in other ways.”

“We didn’t talk about needing more, they just knew what they had to do to win this game,” Williams said. “Kev is still finding his way and his rhythm…That’s not a typical Kevin Durant, efficient game…we still have that to look forward to.”

Much was needed from the supporting cast, and it delivered.

Cameron Payne (7 points, 6 assists) pushed the pace effectively while Jock Landale (6 points, 9 rebounds), TJ Warren, and Landry Shamet provided energy and productive minutes off the pine.

“Even when [Payne] didn’t look to score, he was putting so much pressure on them in transition that it’s hard to matchup,” Williams said. “We need it. And Jock’s ability to run the floor and get to the rim.”

Landale’s effectiveness was felt on both ends, leading to Deandre Ayton being pulled for Landale with about five minutes to play in the fourth.

“Jock was giving us great energy,” Williams said. “His pressure on the rim, just in transition, opened up a ton of lanes for all of our guys to attack the paint tonight…He just scrapped…Even when he was guarding the ‘smalls,’ he just competed.”

“Keep encouraging,” Durant said. “DA just wants to be out there. He wants to contribute, wants to play well every single night. Sometimes that can be a little frustrating when you don’t get the opportunity to showcase what you can do sometimes, but that’s just the nature of a team. We got a team where the next guy gotta step up and everyone’s looking to support.”

“We’ve been around long enough to understand every night’s not gonna be your night,” Booker said. “Energy and effort always has to be high, especially around this time. You can’t get flustered. You can’t get in your own head and I could see that a little bit with [Ayton] today so it’s my job to pump him up – it’s next possession.”

Despite a scary third quarter run from the Nuggets and a monster Nikola Jokić triple-double (30 points, 17 rebounds, 17 assists), Phoenix kept its composure to close out the No. 1 seed in Game 3.

“We’re grateful for the win,” Williams said. “Grateful for all the contributions and we’re gonna need it again on Sunday.”

The Suns have another game at home as they’ll look to even the series on Sunday at 5 pm.