Suns’ Booker seeks to bounce back from Game 3 struggles

Sports

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker (1) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks’ P.J. Tucker (17) during the second half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Devin Booker’s impressive postseason run has hit one of its first real speed bumps.

Now the focus is on the Phoenix Suns guard will be how he responds.

Booker shot just 3 of 14 Sunday night and managed just 10 points as the Suns lost 120-100 to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That performance came after Booker scored 27 points in Game 1 and 31 points in Game 2. It was the first time he’d been held below 15 points in 19 playoff games.

The Sunsexpect him to bounce back in Game 4 Wednesday night.

“They keyed on him,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He missed some shots. So that’s going to happen.”

Booker hasn’t experienced many nights like that in this postseason, the first of his six-year NBA career.

He’s averaging 26.3 points in the playoffs and has a total of 500 points. He enters Game 4 just 21 points shy of Rick Barry’s 54-year-old record for total points in a player’s first career postseason, though Barry reached that total in just 15 games.

Before Sunday, Booker had scored at least 22 points in five straight games.

Booker also went 1 of 7 on 3-point attempts Sunday to continue his somewhat erratic recent performance from beyond the arc. He’s 10 of 24 on 3-pointers over his last four games, but that includes a 7-for-12 performance in Game 2 of the Finals. Booker has shot just 3 of 22 on 3-point attempts in the other three games.

“I think I can get better ones,” Booker said of his shot selection. “We’ll make that happen. The point of the game is to win it, and I think there were other things that went on throughout the game. You can say it’s a make/miss game, but at the end of the day, you have to make the other team miss and get easy opportunities for your team.”

Booker said the Suns didn’t give themselves enough of those easy opportunities Sunday night.

In the first two games of this series, Booker had been able to score in a variety of different ways.

Though he was 1 of 8 on 3-pointers in Game 1,he continually drew fouls and made all 10 of his free-throw attempts. He never got to the foul line in Game 2 but sizzled from 3-point range.

But nothing really worked for him Sunday night.

The good news for the Suns is that Booker has performed well after struggling in this postseason.

After the Suns took a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, Booker shot 5 of 21 in a106-92 Game 3 loss. But he averaged 26 points over the last three games of that series, including a 25-point effort in an 84-80 Game 4 victory.

“He’s been in this situation before, as you guys alluded to,” Williams told reporters after Sunday night’s game. “When you get to the finals, it means you’ve been in a number of situations. So this is nothing new to us anymore. He’ll bounce back.”

Booker again must try to come back from a subpar Game 3 performance and help the Suns take a commanding 3-1 series lead. He’s ready for the challenge.

“We have a few days off here,” Booker said. “We’re going to get back right and (we’re) going to go over film and be ready Wednesday.”

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