Booker scores 52 points, Suns rout Pelicans 123-109

SCORER. Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) and forward Herbert Jones (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The Suns won 123-109. / AP
SCORER. Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) and forward Herbert Jones (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The Suns won 123-109. / APGerald Herbert

AS Devin Booker hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night to eclipse the 50-point plateau, he turned and looked up about 15 rows behind the Phoenix Suns’ bench, where his father and grandfather were sitting.

Booker scored a season-high 52 points in 37 minutes on the court — his second straight 50-point game against New Orleans — and the Phoenix Suns beat the Pelicans 123-109 on Friday night (Saturday morning, Jan. 20, 2024, PH time) for their fourth straight victory.

“I got 50 folks out there and I’m about to go see them,” said Booker, who played in high school on the Mississippi coast. “That’s where my main motivation comes from, from all my family that’s here. They drive over every time I play here and I like to put on a show for them.”

The last time Booker — who had 25 points in the first quarter — was in the Suns’ lineup against New Orleans he scored 58 points in a victory in Phoenix on Dec. 17, 2022. On Friday, he was 18 of 30 from the field, 6 of 11 on 3s and made 10 free throws without a miss.

Booker reached 50 points for the sixth time in his career. He had a career-high 70 at Boston on March 24, 2017.

“The guy’s just got an incredible killer instinct,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said. “He had that look in his eyes tonight.

“It was a great team win, but Book was spectacular,” Vogel added. “He was able to torch these guys, but when the double-teams came, he shared it.”

Kevin Durant added 26 points and Jusuf Nurkic grabbed 15 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns shot 49.5% (46 of 93) and led by 30 points in the second half.

Zion Williamson scored 24 points for the Pelicans, who didn’t shoot well enough to keep up with Booker and Co. New Orleans missed 32 of 42 3-point shots — two nights after making a franchise-record 25 from deep in a blowout victory over Charlotte.

“They kind of knocked us on our heels early,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Once they did, it was just hard for us to get back into a rhythm.”

More than his team’s off night shooting from the outside, Green was bothered by his starters’ defensive effort.

“That’s where their biggest struggles are. We have talked about it and had honest discussions,” Green said. “They can score, but we’ve got to guard.”

The arena was packed to the top row of the upper deck for what looked to be a matchup between a pair of ascending teams in the Western Conference.

Revved up from the opening tip, the crowd exploded when Ingram hit a 15-foot pullup in the opening minute for the games’ first points. This was the largest Pelicans lead they saw all night, and it was short-lived.

Booker responded with a 3 and went on to hit nine of his first 11 shots on a mix of pull-ups, turnarounds, fades, floaters and three 3s to reach 25 points before the first quarter ended.

“When he starts off aggressive, looking to score, that just opens the floor up for everybody,” Durant said. “I expect this from him when we go out there — I’m not saying 50 points — but that aggressiveness, the shot-making.”

The Pelicans, by sharp contrast, missed 17 of their first 19 3-point attempts.

Phoenix led by 23 in the second quarter before the Pelicans managed to trim their deficit to 17 by halftime at 69-52, thanks to a 7-0 run that featured Trey Murphy III’s 3 and Williamson’s alley-oop dunk.

But Booker went about squelching any momentum the Pelicans hoped to have gained in the second half. He scored 20 points in the third quarter, and the Suns led 100-80 heading into the final period.

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