Patrick Magee

Devin Booker shows he’s capable of greatness in 70-point explosion

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is congratulated by guard Leandro Barbosa (19) in the fourth quarter of a game against the Boston Celtics Friday in Boston. Booker scored 70 points, but the Celtics won 130-120.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) is congratulated by guard Leandro Barbosa (19) in the fourth quarter of a game against the Boston Celtics Friday in Boston. Booker scored 70 points, but the Celtics won 130-120. Associated Press

The more you think about it the harder it is to wrap your mind around.

Devin Booker scored 70 points Friday night for the Phoenix Suns.

Yes, 70.

Fifty-one of those points came in the second half.

The Suns, who are in the middle of another disappointing season, lost 130-120 to the Boston Celtics, but who cares?

As Booker poured on the points in the final minutes of the game, the Boston crowd cheered on the 20-year-old from Moss Point. The Celtics' win was very much secondary to the fact that Booker accomplished something that no other NBA player of his age had done before.

He became both the youngest player to ever score 60 points in a game and the youngest to hit the 70-point mark.

Booker is just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 points in a game. The other five are Wilt Chamberlain (who did it six times), Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson.

Michael Jordan's single-game career high in points is 69.

He blew past the Suns' previous record - 60 points by Tom Chambers.

Booker also set a new mark for most points scored in a game against the Celtics. He passed Elgin Baylor (64), Michael Jordan (63) and Wilt Chamberlain (62) on that list.

Pursuit of history

Booker entered halftime with 19 points and a shot at topping his previous career mark of 39.

In the second half, he stepped it up another notch and in a dramatic way.

He set a new career high through just three quarters with 42.

Booker, who is averaging 21.6 points a game, kept rolling in the fourth quarter and his head coach, Earl Watson, fully embraced his second-year guard's pursuit of history. He used fouls and timeouts to help Booker pad his numbers late in the game.

Watson's answer to those who criticized his efforts: “Do something about it.”

The Suns are a half game out of last place in the Western Conference with a record of 21-51. Booker's big game is one of the few bright spots during a season that's simply one more step in the rebuilding process.

The organization is in the middle of a youth movement. The average age of the Phoenix starting lineup Friday night was 21 years and 14 days.

Proving the doubters wrong

Booker was often overshadowed on a statewide basis by Jackson's Malik Newman for much of his high school career. Newman played for a much better team at Callaway while Booker toiled in a Moss Point basketball program that has seen a big drop in talent in recent years.

That's no knock on Newman. Following a disappointing freshman year in 2015-16 at Mississippi State, he sat out this season as a redshirt at Kansas. He should go on to have a stellar college career for the Jayhawks and there's little doubt he'll get his shot at the NBA.

While Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky all tried to recruit him, Booker managed to keep a lower profile. He was obviously extremely talented, but the 6-foot-6 guard was always more grounded than your average high school hoops star.

What was obvious to many who saw Booker play on a regular basis in high school is that he was ready made for the NBA. He was a good athlete, a gifted passer and an excellent shooter. Most of all, he's always been extremely intelligent and a hard worker.

Booker took full advantage of his one season at Kentucky, using it to put to rest any questions about his abilities coming out of high school, especially on the defensive end. Some wanted to label him as a shooter and a role player, but he's always been much more than that.

During his 70-point performance Friday night, Booker only hit four 3-pointers. He was 21-of-40 from the field and hit 24-of-26 free throws. He also had six assists and three steals.

Sure, his numbers were exaggerated somewhat by late timeouts, but 70 is a number that's hard to ignore.

Booker is obviously more than just a shooter.

On Friday night, he became a household name among sports fans and solidified his spot as one of the game's bright young stars.

You can't help but be excited about what's in store for the Moss Point legend.