Suns' Devin Booker makes history, exploding for 70 points in loss to Celtics

Well, you’ve got the give the Phoenix Suns credit for finding ways to keep the waning days of another losing season exceptionally interesting. One day after fielding the youngest starting lineup in NBA history, the Suns headed to Massachusetts to take on the Boston Celtics … and Devin Booker decided to make some history of his own.

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The Suns sophomore scored 70 points on Friday night on 21-for-40 shooting from the field, a 4-for-11 mark from 3-point land, and 24-for-26 shooting from the free-throw line. He did so for a tanking team in a 10-point loss to the Celtics that was not as close as the final score indicates, but still: he did so.

Yes, you read that right, No, it is not a typo.

Seventy. Seven-zero. Seventy. SEVENTY.

(With eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block, in 45 minutes.)

(With 51 of them — a total that would’ve tied for the eighth-highest point total of this season all by itself — coming after halftime.)

That number is insane. Even more insane: he might’ve topped 70, had this wing-and-a-prayer heave been allowed to stand:

Instead, the refs decided that Celtics guard Marcus Smart had fouled Jared Dudley before Booker had gotten the shot off, sending the Suns forward to the line for a pair of free throws. (We’re sure Dudley plans to make it up to Booker down the line.)

It is the most points any NBA player has scored since Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. Which is awfully fitting, considering that one year ago to the day, the retiring Bryant signed a pair of game kicks for the then-rookie Booker, autographed with a very specific message:

Thank you, @kobebryant #BeLegendary

A post shared by Devin Booker (@dbook) on Mar 23, 2016 at 11:00pm PDT

And Kobe, who was at Staples Center on Friday to attend the unveiling of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue, was watching:

It makes Booker one of just six players in NBA history to score 70 or more in a single game, joining Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor, and Hall of Famer-to-be Bryant, in some very, very rarefied air.

It is the single highest-scoring game ever registered against the Celtics, who have been around since 1946, and have faced off against a decent player or two over the last seven decades.

It is the highest-scoring game of the 2016-17 NBA season, blowing away Klay Thompson’s 60-point December maelstrom. And Booker, we remind you, is 20 years old. No player under the age of 21 had ever scored more than 56 points — LeBron James, 20 years and 80 days old, March 20, 2005, against the Raptors. Booker beat that by two touchdowns.

It is safe to say that Booker’s NBA brethren took notice:

That number, to be fair, also comes in a context.

Phoenix never led on Friday, falling behind 16-3 midway through the first quarter and opening the game 0-for-13 from the floor. The Suns trailed 25-5 less than eight minutes ito the contest, and by as many as 26 points late in the second quarter. They never got the deficit back into single digits in a 130-120 Celtics win, as Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas led the way with 34 points on 10-for-20 shooting with seven assists.

With the C’s stomping the woeful Suns, and Booker following up a 19-point first half with 23 in the third quarter to take a 42-spot into the fourth, Phoenix head coach Earl Watson and his players set about creating the conditions for their star shooting guard to suck the marrow out of this particular game. The Suns force-fed Booker late, to the tune of 16 shot attempts and 11 free throws in the final frame.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the outcome long since decided and Booker still firing on all cylinders, the Suns took it to another level. They began using their timeouts to extend the game rather than allowing Boston to run out the clock, and intentionally fouling to send the Celtics to the line to ensure they’d get the ball back to give Booker more chances to inflate his total. Which he did. Happily.

After the game, Thomas struck a sour note when asked about that particular practice:

… and Celtics swingman Jae Crowder (a.k.a. “Bossmann99” on Instagram) took things personally both on the court …

… and in the digital realm:

Booker, for his part, understood the frustration:

… as Watson made very clear:

While some Celtics understandably bristled at the display, the fans in attendance at TD Garden seemed pretty stoked to be witnessing history:

… which seems like a pretty reasonable way to approach things, from the stands. If you’re a Celtics fan, you got to watch your team whomp an overmatched visitor, win a third straight game to improve to 47-26 and stay just one game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and you got to watch something that had only happened 10 other times in NBA history. What’s not to love about that?

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The Suns fell to 22-51, and now sit just one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-best odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. For Phoenix, Booker’s remarkable and historic explosion represents an all-too-rare high point in a season marked by disappointment and defeat — even, coming as it did, in a 10-point loss in which the Suns rarely even competed.

“It is [weird to celebrate the game], because we’ve all been winners most of our life,” Booker told reporters. “But at the same time, the way our season is going right now, we’re kind of looking for something to celebrate. And that meant a lot, to see my veterans happy. Tyson Chandler over there, cheering me on. Jared Dudley had 10 assists tonight, looking for me every time down court. So it is [weird] sometimes, but you have to see the beauty in it. At the end of the day, history was made, and I couldn’t do it without my team, so they’re going to celebrate.”

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!