Anyone who said that the Phoenix Suns were now without a point guard just ate their words hard. Even with Bradley Beal sidelined due to lingering back pain, Devin Booker made plays and scored 32 points, six rebounds, and eight assists to win a close 108-104 game against the Golden State Warriors on opening night of the 2023-2024 NBA season. “What do you say to the naysayers?” NBA on TNT’s Stephanie Ready asked Booker right after the game. “I don’t know,” he responded with a smile. “I don’t talk to them.”
Fellow superstar Kevin Durant added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, alongside new center Jusuf Nurkic’s 14 points and 14 rebounds; Drew Eubanks’ three blocks off the bench, and a major step-up in play from Josh Okogie both offensively with 17 points and defensively. New acquiree Grayson Allen from the Bucks started in Bradley Beal’s place, but he shot 0-5 from the three-point line and 0-6 from the field in general. It was no surprise that many of his minutes in the second half went to Eric Gordon, who was a +6 in the final +/- advanced stats—even though he was also not so consistent from the three (2-9). It was more than enough effort from Booker to pull out the win, however, as the soon-to-be 27-year-old guard vyes not just for his first title but likely a path to potential MVP conversations as well.
Even so, the game was still very close. A major caveat to hang over this one is that both teams were technically not at full force. Phoenix may have won even without Beal in play, but the Warriors were missing star defender Draymond Green due to a preseason ankle sprain. The naysayers also have more to be wrong about than just Booker’s ability to lead the Suns at point guard, as Chris Paul’s addition to Golden State’s offense didn’t take any pressure off Steph Curry in the final moments of the game. Curry still led Golden State with 27 points, but he only made four of his 14 three-point attempts, In fact, Golden State as a whole shot 10-43 from the three-point line, which is just 23.3%. Chris Paul alone went 0-6 from beyond the arc and 4-15 from the field. Klay Thompson was also just 3-11 from the three. The one bright spot was that Jonathan Kuminga has noticeably improved, and should finally be an impactful role player off the bench this season. He finished the opening night game with 12 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
Another highlight of the night was a tribute video that Golden State made for Kevin Durant, celebrating his return to their court even though it was for the other team. “It’s always good to be recognized for the work you put in so it was exciting to see people I hadn’t seen in a while, some familiar faces,” Durant told his fans. “I feel like the fan base here got nothing but love and respect for me as an individual player and as a person. That’s all I can ask for.”