SUNS

5 takeaways as Devin Booker cooks Kings for 44 points in Suns' fifth straight win

Duane Rankin
Arizona Republic

SACRAMENTO – Devin Booker took his game to that place Monday night where energy, anger and a scoring mentality perfectly meshed – and he’s giving the opposition the business.

As a result, Booker deep-fried the Kings for 44 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists to six turnovers in leading Phoenix to an 122-117 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center, marking a fifth straight victory for the Suns (14-6).

Booker had just four points and a couple of turnovers when he received a technical with 3:41 left in the first quarter. He finished the quarter with 10 on 5-of-6 shooting.

By halftime, Booker had racked up 21 – and was far from done.

Booker scored 15 in the third as the Suns took a 91-84 lead into the fourth.

The Kings (10-9) kept coming as Malik Monk scored a team-high 30 points, but Phoenix kept answering with more than just Booker in the fourth quarter. Here are five takeaways from Monday’s win as the Suns return home to face Chicago on Wednesday.

Biggest shot of the night

Nov 28, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Damion Lee (10) shoots over Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter (9) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center.

Booker has talked about Phoenix being “a team” all season.

The team came through in the fourth starting with Damion Lee.

As he has done this season, Lee delivered in the clutch with 11 of his 15 points in the fourth, hitting 3-of-5 from 3 in the quarter, but his biggest basket wasn’t from behind the arc.

With the shot clock winding down, Lee dribbled into a contested two and made it to pull the Suns within one, 104-103, with 5:52 left.

That was the biggest shot of the night. A miss there and the Kings go down and score to go up five or six, with the way they can fill it up and that crowd behind them, they may have pulled away,

Instead of that scenario on the table unfolding, Lee scored to put the pressure back on Sacramento to score.

The Kings are second in the league in offensive rating and points per game, but having to do it when necessary isn’t as easy as when the game is going back and forth.

Lee simply on fire from 3

Monk missed a 3 on the other end and Booker scored to put the Suns up for good, but Lee hit a 3 after that to extend the lead to four, 108-104, with 4:42 left.

Then Lee answered Kevin Huerter’s two with another 3 to make the difference five and force Kings coach Mike Brown to call a timeout with 4:04 left.

Walking back to the bench, Lee's swag was on 1000.

Damion Lee #10 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after he made a three-point basket against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Nov. 28, 2022, in Sacramento, California.

Lee said before the season he does whatever the team needs. He showed the ability to score when the Warriors had all those injuries in the 2019-20 season, but Lee’s still averaging less than double figures for his career.

He came into Monday's game averaging just 7.7 a game in his first season in Phoenix, but next to Booker, he’s been as clutch as anyone for this team in the fourth quarter.

The dude is now 22-of-36 from 3 in the fourth as he leads the league in 3-point shooting percentage in the quarter at 61.1%.

Call it coming from a championship program at Golden State.

Call it a product of his journey to the NBA.

Call it even being ready when given an opportunity.

It’s all those things plus confidence that's skyscraper high right now.

Biggest rebound of the night

Booker carried the offense and Lee came up clutch in the fourth.

Deandre Ayton posted a career-best sixth consecutive double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Mikal Bridges added 13 points with five coming at the right time for the Suns.

Nov 28, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) shoots over Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (10) during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center.

His dunk off a curl and a Booker handoff put Phoenix ahead, 113-110, with 2:52 left. He later nailed a 3 to cap a 9-0 spurt to push the advantage to 10 with 1:14 remaining.

The Kings weren't going anywhere, though.

This team is "loaded" with talent as Suns coach Monty Williams put it, but the Suns have Torrey Craig, a guy who doesn't need plays called for him and does the dirty work.

The Kings aren’t the best defensive team. Point blank, they’re one of the worst.

Sacramento is 25th in defensive rating, a stat that will change under Brown at some point, but the Kings, down three, dug in defensively and forced a Bridges corner 3 late in the game that he missed.

All the Kings needed was a rebound to have a chance to force overtime.

The Kings didn’t get it. Craig did.

With Domantas Sabonis and Huerter down there in the paint with him, Craig still got the board and somehow saved the ball to Bridges, who swung to Booker, who was fouled with 6.8 seconds left.

Two free throws. Up five.

Game over. The Suns win their fifth in a row to match their longest win streak of the season.

Craig finished with 11 points and five rebounds with his last one being the biggest of the night.

Torrey Craig #0 of the Phoenix Suns shoots over Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Nov. 28, 2022, in Sacramento, California.

Playing three bigs again?

Williams isn’t fond of playing three bigs, but he may have found a rotation pattern to do so.

For a second straight game, Williams called upon Bismack Biyombo to replace Ayton in the first half, third quarter, and had Landale start the fourth.

It worked against the Jazz as Landale scored four points and had a huge assist on a Lee 3 that put the Suns up for good in the 113-112 victory.

Landale played only five minutes, but he greatly impacted the outcome.

Jock Landale #11 of the Phoenix Suns blocks a shot taken by De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Nov. 28, 2022, in Sacramento, California.

Two nights later, Williams stuck with the same rotation. Playing four minutes, Landale scored two points off free throws, but had a hockey assist as he kicked the ball out to Bridges, who found Lee for a corner 3 to give Phoenix a 99-94 lead.

The other notable rotation is Booker starting the fourth quarter, but Williams gives him a rest as Payne has checked in for him in consecutive games in the quarter.

Williams said he'd rather have him come out the game late in third and start the fourth on the bench. Booker understands that as the two have talked about this, but he wants to play as much as possible.

Booker got his wish Monday night, starting the fourth and playing 41 minutes in the third game in four nights.

Insane.

Then Williams made the call to have Lee replace Payne with 6:14 left in the fourth.

The rest is history.

Playing three bigs in a game may not be over, though. While it didn't feel the same as Saturday night, the Suns still won.

Lastly, MVP Booker

Yes, Chris Paul missed his 10th straight game Monday with what has to be more than a sore right heel.

Cam Johnson is still a month or two away from returning, but for the Suns to stand atop the West without two starters is proof they're still a championship contender.

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns is guarded by KZ Okpala #30 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Nov. 28, 2022, in Sacramento, California.

It all starts with Booker.

Now he has some guys around him. Ayton is playing at a high level. Bridges has been solid. Craig contributes, Cameron Payne has played well in Paul's absence and the bench, led by Lee, has had its moments.

Williams is finding ways to make this work without the floor general in Paul, but Booker has put the team on his back and basically said, come rock with me.

He's a superstar. Period.

And an MVP candidate. He's checking all the boxes.

Scoring. Finding teammates. Rebounding.

Defending. Playing heavy minutes. Playing with an edge

And most of all winning with a team that's not even 100%.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.