Booker scores 51 in three quarters; Suns roll past Bulls

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) blocks a shot by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, left, during the first half Wednesday in Phoenix.

    Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) blocks a shot by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, left, during the first half Wednesday in Phoenix. Associated Press

  • Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) drives past Phoenix Suns guards Devin Booker (1) and Cameron Payne, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

    Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) drives past Phoenix Suns guards Devin Booker (1) and Cameron Payne, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. Associated Press

  • Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig (0) grabs a rebound away from Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the first half.

    Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig (0) grabs a rebound away from Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the first half. Associated press

 
 
Updated 11/30/2022 11:11 PM

Three years ago, an argument could have been made that Zach LaVine had a brighter future than Phoenix guard Devin Booker.

The two shooting guards have had a similar career trajectory. LaVine was the No. 13 pick of the 2014 draft, while Booker went No. 13 a year later.

 

Both were one-and-done college players who needed time to develop, and both broke into the NBA with perennial losing teams.

In the last couple of years, Booker not only helped turn the Suns into a winner, he found an escalator to the highest floor. Booker torched the Bulls for 51 points on Wednesday in Phoenix and the Bulls were stomped by the Suns 132-113.

Booker hit a ridiculous 20 of 25 shots from the field and went 6 of 7 from 3-point land.

He did all that in just 31 minutes of playing time, and he didn't play at all in the fourth quarter.

"We threw everything at him," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the game. "We trapped him, we threw a box-and-one at him, we tried to face-guard him. To his credit, he had a great night. He shot over us a lot of times. We put Derrick (Jones Jr.) in there to try to put more length on him. We had Patrick (Williams) on him, we had Alex (Caruso) on him, and he really got it going."

This angle isn't a knock on LaVine as much as it is a tribute to Booker's improvement, which seemed to accelerate when he gained veteran point guard Chris Paul as a teammate and the pair went to the Finals in 2021.

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Paul is out with a heel injury, and forward Cam Johnson will be out for a while with a meniscus tear in his right knee, but the Suns (15-6) extended their win streak to six.

From the opening tip, Phoenix put the Bulls' defense on its heels, going inside to center DeAndre Ayton, who didn't have to work very hard to score 11 in the opening quarter. Ayton finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds.

After Ayton punished the Bulls inside, Booker went to work, often working with Ayton in the pick-and-roll. Booker added a series of tough jumpers in the third quarter. After falling behind 64-43 at halftime, the Bulls never got closer than 14 the rest of the way and fell to 2-2 on this six-game road trip. Games in Golden State and Sacramento still remain.

DeMar DeRozan tried to keep the Bulls in it, scoring 29 points on 11 of 17 shooting. LaVine finished with 21 points and 7 assists while hitting 7 of 15 shots. Center Nikola Vucevic scored 17.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Before the game, Donovan gave an update on Lonzo Ball's recovery from a second knee surgery in September.

"It's been really slow," Donovan said. "It's not like I can give you any report, 'Hey, he's running, he's cutting, he's jumping, he's doing individual skill work, the next step is we've got to get him some contact.' To be honest with you we're not even close to that."

None of this is really news. Ball is about two months into his recovery and it's seemed like the best-case scenario was a return in January.

The concern is whether he will get better. The Bulls were expecting Ball back for the playoffs when he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late January. Not only did that not happen, the knee pain persisted until he finally chose to have a second surgery during the opening week of training camp.

"He is better after the surgery, I will say that, but is he completely pain-free? No, and that's what they're working toward," Donovan said.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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