Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker had himself an incredible playoff debut against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, finishing with 34 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists with most of it happening against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as his primary defender.
Caldwell-Pope struggled on both ends of the floor on Sunday, but he is still one of the better players in the league to have guard Booker. Caldwell-Pope generally struggles against bigger wings, so having him defend someone who is closer to his size is an advantage for the Lakers if all goes well. Things didn’t go so well on Sunday, but there’s reason to believe it will improve.
Caldwell-Pope discussed his role when it comes to defending Booker and on the offensive end. “I think my play is very much needed as far as having that energy on the defense end, where I need to start. Tough matchup, tough series with Devin Booker. He’s a scorer and he can do it in all type of ways so just trying to have my focus more on the defensive end.
“When I’m open, shoot the ball and knock down shots like I’ve been doing my whole career and being in the organization for four years, that’s been my job, 3-and-D. So I take that very seriously. It’s gonna be tough but I lean my hat on my defense so it’s gonna be good.”
As it pertains specifically to Booker, Caldwell-Pope broke down how he felt Sunday’s matchup went and what could potentially be improved.
“I feel like we did a great job on Book, he just made a lot of tough, contested twos. I don’t think he had an easy shot besides like the one three that he had at the top of the key that I can remember,” Caldwell-Pope said.
“But we made it tough on him, he had to take tough twos. He’s a great player, an All-Star and he’s gonna knock down those shots. But we just got to be more physical I feel like, we wasn’t physical enough with him. We got to be able to get stops when we needed them, not have him get a rhythm. So take him out of his game as much as possible.”
While 34 points on 26 shots is not incredible efficiency, it does mean that Booker was able to get shots up as he pleased all game long. The Lakers and Caldwell-Pope have to do a better job of forcing the ball out of his hands without leaving DeAndre Ayton completely open underneath the basket.
The way to do this is with sharper rotations and more active hands. In Game 1, the Suns looked to be in complete control of their decisions on the offensive end, and that’s uncharacteristic for a Lakers defense that ranked No. 1 in the NBA this season.
Drummond shares similar sentiment to Caldwell-Pope about Booker
Lakers center Andre Drummond also felt the Lakers did a good job on Booker, but still gave some areas of improvement.
“I think it’s just Devin Booker being Devin Booker. The shots he was taking were contested and we defended him well. I think early in the game we allowed him to get a lot of easy shots, which is what got him into that rhythm to where he could hit those shots down the stretch of the game. I think we need to do a better job and be more physical on him.”
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