5 takeaways from Devin Booker cooking Spurs for season-high 48 in Suns win

Duane Rankin
Arizona Republic

SAN ANTONIO — Devin Booker is still cooking. 

After back-to-back 30-point games in winning Western Conference player of the week honors, Booker went for a season-high 48 in leading Phoenix past San Antonio, 121-107, Monday night AT&T Center in the second of a back-to-back.

The Spurs (16-28) battled the Suns (34-9) tough again after losing their previous two games to them by four points each.

San Antonio led by 12 in the second half Monday, but Phoenix answered down the stretch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day before 10,422 fans.

Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked, "Please tell me Paul, Ayton and Booker didn't show."

A third of his playful wish came true.

Ayton was out with a right ankle sprain he suffered in the first quarter of Sunday's 135-108 win in Detroit.

Unfortunately for Popovich, Booker showed up big-time, Chris Paul showed up in crunch time and Bismack Biyombo set season highs in points and rebounds in leading a strong bench effort the Suns needed on the second of a back-to-back.

Here are five takeaways from Monday's comeback win as Phoenix faces Dallas on Thursday looking to finish this five-game road trip unbeaten.

1. Paul said after Booker's 35-point night Friday at Indiana that Phoenix doesn't win that game if "he don't go crazy like that" as Booker scored 22 in the third.

The Suns definitely don't win Monday night without Booker scoring 10 more points than his previous season high of 38 .

To deliver like this on a second of back-to-back?

Booker said he could see his teammates were tired and even admitted to being fatigued himself, but one of his strengths is playing through fatigue.

That enables him not only stay in attack mode, but find the energy to push through even when he or his teammates aren't making shots or the team isn't getting stops.

2. The Suns shows resolve in three key stretches in the second half after falling behind, 82-70, with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

Phoenix went on a 15-2 run to take a one-point lead with 1:55 left in the third. Booker and Biyombo combined to score 13 of those 15 and the Suns got consecutive stops.

Williams counted five in a row, but Jock Landale answered with a 3 that put the Spurs quickly back on top. Those kind of shots can lead to the home team going on a run with the home crowd going crazy.

The Suns didn't allow that.

They stayed right there, but Devin Vassell nailed a 3 at the buzzer to end the third to push San Antonio's lead back up to four.

Big momentum shot in favor of the Spurs.

The Suns didn't wilt in the fourth. They responded. 

Down 98-97 with 8:40 left, Phoenix went on an 18-4 run with Paul scoring six of his 15 points during that stretch on 3-of-3 shooting to go up 115-102 with 4:04 left in the game.

Paul also registered 12 assists as the Suns only committed five turnovers with him not having one of them. 

3. Biyombo hadn't played double-digit minutes in more than a week.

He scratched five in his last game last Tuesday at Toronto.

So Williams calling upon him instead of Jalen Smith was a bit surprising.

Smith has played well, been productive and gaining confidence, but Williams noticed two things that led to his decision.

One, San Antonio was gutting the Suns on the offensive glass. 

Two, the Spurs were doing it with big, physical and aggressive bigs led by Jakob Poeltl. 

Now Smith can board, but Williams felt the Suns need some more size, or "girth" as he put it to battle the Spurs.

So he called upon Biyombo, who delivered with season highs in points with 17 and rebounds with 14. The numbers are impressive, especially considering he's only been playing a month this season after signing a 10-day hardship exemption, but he brought the energy the Suns were lacking.

JaVale McGee pushed though fatigue, but he was tired. Scored six points, grabbed eight boards, but he was worn down after his 20-point effort Sunday.

Williams thought about putting Smith out there to defend the pick-and-pop Landale, but stuck with Biyombo.

San Antonio Spurs center Jock Landale (34) and Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) battle for control of the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio.

4. Biyombo's season-high performance greatly helped Phoenix win the bench battle, 37-23, but he got some help from two players with the same first name.

Cameron Payne had 11 and Cam Johnson chipped in eight in his return after missing three games with an ankle sprain suffered last week against Miami.

Payne has been on a recent roll as this was his third straight double-figure game. He's playing confident and is getting to the rim.

Johnson has been out for more than a week after the injury, but didn't look as if he lost a step in his return. He missed both of his 3s, found himself on the wrong end of the Spurs crashing the offensive glass, but provided a spark.

San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) drives past Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

He was part of forcing a turnover when the ball was originally ruled off the Suns.

"I never touched the ball," Johnson said. "Come on, CJ."

That would be referee CJ Washington. Or maybe he was talking to himself.

Either way, big play for Suns.

Then Johnson went coast-to-coast that began with a steal and spin move and ended with a tough contested layup to give Phoenix a 103-98 lead and Popovich calling a timeout.

Jan 17, 2022; San Antonio, Texas, USA;  Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Jock Landale (34) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

5. Finally, Phoenix can end this five-game road trip unbeaten with a win over Dallas (25-19).

The Mavericks are 9-1 in their last 10 games. Luka Doncic is being Luka Doncic as he posted a triple-double in Monday's 104-102 win over Oklahoma City.

Dallas has a game Wednesday against Toronto, meaning it'll be on the second of a back-to-back when facing the Suns.

Nationally televised game on TNT.

Who you got?

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.

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