3 adjustments Phoenix Suns need to make to save series vs. Lakers

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images /
3 of 3
Phoenix Suns
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

1. Trust in Devin Booker

This would’ve been true with a healthy Chris Paul, but it’s especially prudent now: The Phoenix Suns will only go as far as Devin Booker will take them. And after a disheartening Game 3 performance, he has more reason than anyone to make a statement in Game 4.

In the series opener, Book looked like he had been waiting for this moment his entire life because, well, he had. He dropped a game-high 34 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds on 13-of-26 shooting and was the best player on a court that included LeBron James, Anthony Davis and CP3 … and that was his first-ever playoff appearance.

Since then, however, Book’s impact has been less than stellar. Sure, he put up another 31 points in Game 2, but they came on 7-of-17 shooting, in a loss, with 10 of those points coming at the free-throw line in the last minute with the final outcome all but decided. Then came Game 3, and Booker was a hot mess. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting, committed four turnovers and before he could even foul out, got ejected for a hard foul on Dennis Schroder that earned him a Flagrant 2.

Did Schroder exaggerate the contact? Sure. But was this frustration foul uncalled for and a moment of mental weakness after the Lakers’ No. 1 defense flustered him all night? You betcha. Booker and the Suns got punked in Game 3, and with Paul either limited or potentially out for Game 4, it will fall on Book to set the tone right from the start.

It won’t be easy. The Lakers are sending everything they’ve got at him, and even worse, they’ve been able to build a wall around him when CP3 can’t shoot 3s and Jae Crowder can’t make any.

“They’ve been the No. 1 defense in the league all year long, so when you have two 30-point games and play the way he’s played, they’re gonna try to do some things to take him out,” Williams said. “[Booker] missed some shots tonight, but they were trying to speed him up, and they ran two guys at him all night long. That’s a tough way to play. Even when we weren’t in pick-and-roll, there was always someone there at the rim or in the paint to cut him off, and if we’re not making shots around him, that just makes it tougher on him. He’ll bounce back.”

Book going off isn’t just on his own scoring ability; Phoenix has to prove it can knock down triples to provide some oxygen for him. Payne starting will help in that regard, as will Crowder, Bridges and Cam Johnson actually being threats on the offensive end.

But at the end of the day, this Suns team needs Booker to step up and own this moment. Their season is hanging in the balance, and after years of waiting to get to this stage, his last two playoff outings have either been underwhelming or outright dismal, in the case of Game 3. It’s on him to respond accordingly and bounce back in Game 4, because otherwise, Phoenix may be going home sooner than expected.