There's just something about playing against the 76ers that brings out the best in Devin Booker.
Booker has been instrumental in powering the Phoenix Suns to the No.2 seed in the West, averaging 25.4 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game and after passing a tough test against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Suns will get another chance to prove their playoff credentials when they visit Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The two-time All-Star torched the 76ers in their first meeting of the season, a 120-111 win in Phoenix, dropping 36 points, including stretches being guarded by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.
"We just didn't have the ability to stay square for the most part," coach Doc Rivers said following that game. "Booker makes tough shots, and you'll always live with those. I thought overall, Ben did a pretty good job, especially in the first half. The times Booker scored, for the most part, was when Ben was off of him and someone switches."
#NBACourtOptix powered by Microsoft Azure highlights Devin Booker's tough shot-making ability. Book has made 121 contested jumpers this season, 2nd most in the NBA. Watch the @Suns battle the 76ers tonight at 7:00pm/et on NBA TV. pic.twitter.com/Oa6jMKSB1I- NBA (@NBA) April 21, 2021
Simmons, who missed the 76ers last game, along with Tobias Harris are both expected to be in the lineup against the Suns, with Simmons' primary focus being keeping the Suns sniper quiet.
That's easier said than done.
Booker's ability to score at all three levels is a nightmare for any defender as he showed against the 76ers, hitting them with a combination of pull-ups, drives to the basket and 3-point bombs.
In isolation against Simmons, Booker uses his elite footwork and the threat of getting to the hoop to shake Simmons off and step back into a triple.
The crowning moment of the game came late in the fourth quarter as he sized up Simmons well beyond the 3-point line to connect on this deep three to beat the shot clock.
"We let him get hot," Danny Green said after the February loss. "Partially my fault. I let him get to the basket and get a couple easy ones. We had them pretty under wraps so we had them in a good spot to start, he wasn't too comfortable. Once he got a couple to drop going to get to the free-throw line. Then he got a couple to get hot, they set some good screens for him, we didn't get into the bodies like we're supposed to. We weren't physical enough with those guys."
In a matchup between one of the best offensive players and one of the best defensive players in the league, the one-on-one battle between Booker and Simmons is worth tuning in for alone. The 76ers guard has the length and speed to make life tough for Booker, but Booker specialises in making tough shots.
In six games they've faced each other, they've split them evenly at 3-3, but that hasn't stopped the Suns guard from catching fire each time.
Booker vs. Simmons head-to-head (6 games)
Booker has been a thorn in the 76ers side in recent years, regularly piling up the points. Since his third season in the NBA, he's enjoyed some of his best games against Philly, averaging north of 35 points per game.
He has scored 30-plus points in each of his last seven games against the 76ers, the longest streak by a Suns player against a single opponent.
Booker vs. 76ers
The 76ers will likely deploy a combination of defenders against Booker, with Simmons, Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green all capable of showing him different looks, but sometimes it's just a case of good offence beats good defence.
Philly has lost just six games on their home floor this season, while the Suns boast a solid 18-7 record on the road. With both teams hoping for deep playoff runs this season, battles against elite teams at this point in the season will serve as an important measuring stick ahead of the postseason.
This one is going to be fun.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.