Booker seeks encore as Suns visit Celtics
BOSTON -- Devin Booker will never forget the last time he played in Boston.
Anyone else there on that March night last season won't forget it either.
It was the night the young Booker, in only his second year in the NBA, joined some true immortals of the game by scoring 70 points.
"That was the craziest part of the whole night for me, being mentioned with those names," Booker told the Arizona Republic earlier this week, talking about his performance in Phoenix's 130-120 loss to the Boston Celtics. "I play the game to be a legend, to be one of the best and that's a good way to start."
On that magical night, Booker joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson as the only NBA players to score at least 70 points in an NBA game, a list topped by Chamberlain's 100.
On Saturday, Booker, averaging 23 points per game this season, and the Suns (8-15) visit the Celtics (19-4) in a matinee -- Booker's first game back on the parquet since that night.
"Somehow I get reminded of it on a daily basis," Booker said, noting he was approached in China last summer by someone who wanted to shake the hand of someone who scored 70 points in a game. "I think because it happened in Boston, against the Celtics, one of the most historic franchises in the NBA, that added a little bit to it."
Booker went 21-for-40 from the floor that night, 4-for-11 from 3-point range, 24-for-26 from the foul line. He also had eight rebounds, six assists (yes, he passed) and three steals.
In the final minutes, Earl Watson, his coach at the time, turned to gimmicks to get him more points. Intentional fouls, timeouts in a game that was not on the line. He drew fire for it -- the Celtics, in particular, didn't like it.
The Suns lost their seventh straight that night, a streak that would run to 13. Watson was fired earlier this year. Jay Triano is the interim coach and they have lost four of their last five games, going 1-2 in the first three games of a six-game trip.
They now run into a team that is 19-2 after an 0-2 start and has won nine of its last 10 at home.
Marcus Morris, a key in Thursday night's win over the Philadelphia 76ers, came to Boston from Detroit, but was with the Suns for three seasons. To say he doesn't have fond memories would be an understatement.
"Honestly, I'm tired of talking about Phoenix," he said Friday. "I'm in Boston, I was in Detroit. It's evident what's going on over there. The players, I have a great relationship with, it has nothing to do with them. It's the ownership and things like that.
"I think they could be a lot better. The way they treat their players, what players go through, some people think because you're paid a certain amount, everything else shouldn't matter. I think they don't do a great job there."
Kyrie Irving had his fourth 30-point game in the last seven and his fifth of the year Thursday night, finishing with a game-high 36. His teammates and coach Brad Stevens continue to be amazed by his play -- at both ends of the floor.
Asked what it's like having the confidence every time Irving goes up with a shot, teammate Al Horford said, "It's a luxury. Not a lot of teams have that. Just his will to win and make those shots, when we need it most, just keeps impressing me game by game."
The Celtics have won both home games against the Suns the past two seasons but lost at Phoenix last year for a series split.
Stevens was named Eastern Conference coach of the month for October-November on Friday.
Updated December 1, 2017