“Short memory,” Booker said Tuesday of his 10-point showing on 3-for-14 shooting in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. “Just move on.”
It was a rare off night for the 24-year-old, who has already scored 500 points in these playoffs, ranking third all time behind only Rick Barry and Julius Erving for a player in his first postseason.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who saw Booker carve up his defensive schemes to the tune of 58 points combined in the Suns’ wins in Games 1 and 2, said his team is bracing for a bounce-back from the young scorer.
“He’s a great player, but he’s human also. But I think we’re expecting we’re going to have to be even better on him,” Budenholzer said. “We just got to be prepared for a really good Devin Booker going into Game 4.”
Budenholzer said some of their success against Booker came from trying out different defenders on him. In Game 3, Booker shot 0-for-3 against Jrue Holiday and 0-for-1 against Giannis Antetokounmpo, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. For the series, Booker is 2-for-11 against Holiday and 1-for-6 against Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ two first-team All-Defensive players.
“I wouldn’t say there was one specific thing or anything we did different,” Budenholzer said. “Obviously, there’s subtle little things that we’re trying to do.”
Booker is trying to continue his trend of coming out strong after a poor shooting night. In the 11 games Booker has played this season after a game in which he shot 35% or worse from the field, he averaged 23.8 points on 44.3% shooting and the Suns went 9-2.
“He gets pretty scary after [a bad game],” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “Just knowing his mentality and knowing that games like that don’t really slow him down. We know it was just one of those games, but I know he’ll step up and as a team we’ll step up as well.”
Suns coach Monty Williams, who pulled Booker from Game 3 late in the third quarter and kept him on the bench for the entire fourth with the game out of hand, told the six-year veteran that he would like to see him play with more “force” as the series moves forward.
Williams elaborated on what playing with force means to him.
“Both ends, just the relentless sprinting, getting to the corners on offense, defensively getting back and showing a wall,” Williams said. “That was what we thought was inconsistent, and our players thought the same when we watched film yesterday. They were all in agreement. When we do it, we give ourselves a chance to be successful. It’s not the panacea by any stretch of the imagination, but it does help us play the way we want to play.”
Other than the team film session, Booker and Chris Paul huddled in the point guard’s hotel room to rewatch the tape from Game 3 and come up with ways to improve — much the same way they do on off-nights in Phoenix, where they are neighbors.
Suns reserve Cameron Payne said Booker will bring it in Wednesday’s Game 4 (9 p.m. ET, ABC), just as he always does.
“To me, he’s got that same look in his eyes every game, no matter if he played good or played bad or if he played outstanding,” Payne said. “He’s just got that same demeanor, just to go kill no matter what.”
Paul suggested there has been too much attention on Booker’s missed shots in Game 3 and not enough on the missed opportunity for the Suns as a team, as they were outplayed by a hungry Bucks squad.
“This ain’t golf. It’s not tennis. You know what I mean? We’re all in this together,” Paul said. “So everybody on our team took the loss hard, as we should. We never go into a game expecting to lose. If you showed me somebody who expects to lose, I’ll show you a loser. So everybody on our team felt a way. We felt like we could be better.”
Not that Booker is ducking any expectations placed on him as the series moves on, because he is already placing them on himself.
“Just understanding the task at hand and simply you just have to be better if you want to win the game,” Booker said. “That’s obviously something I want and something this whole team and coaching staff and training staff wants and this whole city wants.
“So I would say it’s a good pressure. These are the moments that you prepare for and that you train so hard for, what we’re in right now. So you have to be excited about it.”