The Suns’ success hinges on KD and Book

Published May 9, 2023, 4:00 PMPolo Bustamante

Are the points from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant enough to carry the Suns past the Nuggets?

When I was a kid, I would follow the NBA playoffs through the very short recaps on the sports page of our daily newspaper (kids, look it up). Back then, the Chicago Bulls were in the middle of their second 3-peat run so they were the hot topic, that’s why they owned the opening paragraph. More often than not, the opening line would read like this:

“Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen combined for 54 of Chicago’s 84 points…”

It always fascinated me how two players could account for 60 to 70 percent of an entire team’s scoring.

That’s why I’m in awe of what Kevin Durant and Devin Booker have been doing in the West Semis.

In four games so far, the two have combined to average 68.3 of the Phoenix Suns’ 111.0 points in this series. That’s a whopping 61 percent of the total team production.

What Booker is doing in this series is nothing new. He’s been on fire the entire playoffs, totaling 331 points in nine games. He’s averaging a shade under 37 points per game in this year’s playoffs. What’s been even more impressive has been his efficiency. There are nearly no wasted possessions when Booker decides to take a shot. 

He’s hitting 61.7 percent of his shots, including 2.9 made 3-pointers a game at 51 percent shooting. The man is scoring 136 points per 100 possessions.

What’s been amazing about his scoring binge is how patient he’s been looking for his spots on the floor. He keeps his dribble alive, constantly probing the Denver defense. When he finds an opening, he gets to it and quickly goes through his Rolodex (again, kids, look it up) of offensive moves to pick the right one for the situation. He can hit almost any type of jumper, from any angle, no matter which defender switches on to him.

 Simply put, Booker is hotter than the sun in these playoffs.

That’s why it’s no surprise that even one of the most skilled scorers to ever play the game has taken a step back to Booker.

Durant’s averages pale in comparison to Booker’s, but on their own, his numbers in the playoffs have been pretty damn good. He’s still putting up 30 points a game at a clean 49 percent rate. While his 3-point shooting can still be a bit more accurate (only 1.9 makes at 35.4 percent), he’s been eating inside the arc, hitting 54.1 percent of his shots.

He’s also taken it up a notch in the West semis. After averaging “only” 28.4 points in the opening round, he’s now up to 32.0 points in the four games against the Nuggets so far. Another interesting thing to note is how assertive Durant has been lately. Against the LA Clippers, he settled for only 17 shots a game. Against the Nuggets he’s taking 24 shots per game.

This performance by Phoenix’s two biggest stars is not just incredible, it’s also essential. While the two are both averaging 30, no other Sun is putting up more than 14 points per game in the playoffs so far. DeAndre Ayton is averaging only 13.3 points while Chris Paul is scoring only 12.4 points.

To make matters worse for the Suns, Paul is out with a hamstring injury and Ayton’s headspace is unclear after he was seen frustrated after being benched in Game 4. That’s why every single point Booker and Durant can muster is so important for the Suns. Outside of these two, there’s no clear source of production for the team.

Awesome? Yes. Essential? Also, a yes. But are the numbers Booker and Durant putting up sustainable?

The Suns better hope so. Right now, they have no other choice but to lean heavily on these two offensively. They’d rather live or die with Durant and Booker hoisting up shots rather than spread the load across the paper-thin Suns lineup. Phoenix will ride and die with Book and KD.

While I don’t read newspapers anymore, I am going to enjoy reading tweets that go something like this:

“Booker: 45 points

Durant: 38 points

The most playoff points by a duo since…”