[via Phx Suns]

Booker Drops 52 Again in the Smoothie King Center

07:00 April 02, 2024
By: Kaitlin Lowe

Pels v. The Suns

Riding off of a big loss to Boston on Saturday, the Pelicans were in need of a win heading into Monday's game against the Phoenix Suns.

This game had more riding on it than meets the eye, as one team, the Suns, would be fighting to climb to a playoff spot in the last stretch of games, while the other team, the Pels, would be fighting to hang on to their (now sixth seed) playoff spot.

The Pels knew the battle would be an uphill effort as the Suns swept the Pelicans on their home floor on a Friday night in January during these teams' first matchup of the season, where Devin Booker scored 52 points.

The game started slow for the Pelicans and hot for the Suns. The game was especially hot for Booker once again, dropping 20 points in the first quarter.

Kevin Durant described Booker's moment in the first half "like déjà vu. As it was happening, I couldn't believe he was doing it again. When you're in the zone like that, you reach this zen mode. [Booker] was at that point where he could make the shot effortlessly; it was beautiful to watch."

Booker's and Durant's scoring efforts, coupled with a slow pace from the Pels, resulted in a score of 28-46 at the end of the first quarter. Despite an awakened effort from the Pels, that effort wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, as the Pelicans still stood at a 20-point deficit to the Suns at the half at 54-74. Booker had tallied 37 points at the half. Coach Green said postgame he felt as if the Pelicans played "soft," in regards to mentality and physicality.

[via Phx Suns]

The third and fourth quarters of the game showed a valiant effort by the Pelicans, who closed the gap to 13 points in the third quarter. Coach Green attributed the slight comeback to the smaller lineup, explaining that he "thought it looked better. There was more space. It made (Jusuf) Nurkić have to guard Zion (Williamson) a bit more, and he had to honor our wings and guards that were spaced out. We have to do a better job of finishing defensive possessions so that when we are small or big, it doesn't matter."

While the efforts were enough to come within seven points of the Suns and make for a good game during the fourth quarter, it wasn't enough to undo the game's slow start.

In what went wrong towards the end of the game, including the missed offensive rebounds turned to second chance points for the Suns, Coach Green said, "They out-rebounded us, and that's just unacceptable. We have to have a tougher mentality. Our guys know it. It was a tough loss. The positive takeaways are that I loved our resiliency. From the second quarter on, it was a better game for us, but they really came out right away in that first quarter, and it was a gut punch."

"Déjà Vu"

The most astounding thing about this game is that this was the second time Booker had dropped exactly 52 points in the Smoothie King Center this season.

"We shouldn't let anyone drop 50 on us twice in a season," said Coach Green. "Some of those points were made through tough shots, and we gave him some of them."

Booker has become the only NBA player besides Wilt Chamberlain to score 50+ points in three straight games against the same opponent. This game marked Bookers' eighth 50+ game in his career.

In response to the statistic, Booker said, "Anytime your name is mentioned next to Wilt's, which is something that's only happened to me a few times in my career, you know you did something special."

When asked if there was anything that gave him such success over the Pelicans, Booker said not much besides his sense of familiarity and the love he feels in New Orleans.

"The crib is close. I have a lot of family in attendance. I grew up coming here, this is the first NBA arena I've been to. Everything from the Southern hospitality to the food and culture...It feels like home," said Booker.

After this tough loss at home, the Pelicans will look to bounce back against the Orlando Magic at home on Wednesday. As the season comes to its end and the playoffs are near, don't forget to check back with Where Y'at for all the best exclusive content on the New Orleans Pelicans.

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