By now, you’ve probably heard of Devin Booker’s “Be Legendary” arm tattoo, which was inspired by the advice the late Kobe Bryant wrote on his shoes after a Finals game in his last season. Booker adored Bryant. He wanted to learn everything he could from him. Then he wanted to be like him. Lots of players his age did.
The only credible way to get in line with a Hall of Famer like Bryant is by having a lot more games like Thursday night when he scored 31 points to beat the Milwaukee Bucks to a 118-108 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Phoenix tops the best of seven series by 2-0, and it can spark a very sane discussion about whether Booker or his defender Chris Paul is the top contender for the Finals MVP right now.
Paul continued his great Game 1 of 32 points with 23 points and 10 assists in Game 2 despite the undivided attention of Milwaukee defender Jrue Holiday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 42 points and 12 rebounds, Milwaukee had three slow quarters, and the Bucks were finally getting some performance from their role-playing players. But every time the Bucks got closer on the fourth quarter, the Suns found a way to push them back.
Booker did it by nailing seven of the 20 3-pointers of the suns at night, including three in a row during a 2-minute, 23-second stretch in the fourth quarter to stop a surge in the bucks that had shortened 90-84 with 9:41 to go. Paul would nail his own 3, as well as finding open shooters for clutches, which puts the game out of Bucks’ reach.
Although the Bucks performed solidly in the fourth quarter, the game’s revealing statistics came late in the third: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 32 points; the rest of the Milwaukee starters, 32 points. With his Eastern Conference final injury looming over everything he does, the way Antetokounmpo has reacted is the mark of a great player, not 100% but still the same nightmare of the showdown for each defense.
His third quarter was spectacularly strong and burdened the Suns with his typical downhill sprints and an overwhelming, dominant paint play.