Monday, April 15, 2024
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Devin Booker’s historic dominance over Pelicans matches Wilt Chamberlain in the record books

There were a total of 1,230 NBA games played during the 2022-23 season, and within that figure, there were a total of just 25 50-point performances from individual players. That should give you an idea of the rarity of such brilliance. Even in the scoring boom of the past few years, we still see 50-point outbursts in only around 2% of all NBA games. Any player getting there even once is a rarity. Twice is a minor miracle. Three times? Only the best of the best do that. Last season, only four players did it.

But let’s extrapolate even further. None of the four players to score 50 three or more times last season ever did so against the same opponent more than once. In fact, entering Monday, the last player to score 50 or more against the same team twice in a single season was James Harden, who got to 50 twice against the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018-19 season.

Devin Booker joined Harden in the history books on Monday when he paired a 52-point explosion against the New Orleans Pelicans with another 52-point line against them on Jan. 19. That, already, would be remarkably impressive. But here’s where things get crazy: Prior to that Jan. 19 game, Booker hadn’t played against the Pelicans since Dec. 17, 2022. In that game, he scored 58 points.

That means that Booker has now scored 50 or more points in his last three games against the Pelicans. Harden never did that. Neither did Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. No, to find the last player who scored 50 or more against the same team three times in a row, you have to go all the way back to Wilt Chamberlain. 

“Quite frankly, we were soft guarding him,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said after the game. “We had a soft mentality when it came to being physical on him.”

This would be impressive under any circumstances. Adding to the insanity of this streak is the opponent itself. The Pelicans entered Monday’s game with the No. 4-ranked defense in the NBA. Herb Jones is going to get votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Few teams have a deeper and more versatile group of perimeter defenders in the NBA than the Pelicans. That group seemingly had a handle on Booker before all of this started. In the last three games he played against New Orleans before this streak began, the Pelicans held him to 16 or fewer points.

But ever since? Booker has become the Pelican slayer, and that title couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. With Monday’s victory, the Suns now trail the Pelicans by only one game in the Western Conference standings for the No. 6 seed. The Suns now own the tiebreaker over the Pelicans, and they will host New Orleans on April 7 with a chance to sweep the season series. If Booker keeps this up, there’s almost no doubt that they’ll manage to do so.

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