MEXICO CITY -- Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson joked he might be requesting a change of venue for the team's Monday matchup against the Utah Jazz after a 108-105 victory on Saturday over the San Antonio Spurs at Arena Ciudad de Mexico.
"Devin Booker doesn't want to leave," Watson said. "He wants to stay and play Utah here on Monday. He's averaging 39. So we're trying to change the game really quick."
Booker ripped San Antonio for 39 points -- his second 39-point night in three days -- to become the first Suns player to post two separate 35-point streaks (Nov. 4-6 and Jan. 12-14) in a single season since Tom Chambers accomplished the feat in 1990, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. But the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard nearly matched Booker's production in pouring in a career-high 38 points to become the first Spur to record three consecutive 30-point games since Tony Parker in 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The back-and-forth between Booker and Leonard certainly kept the sellout crowd of 20,532 on their feet.
"I think they enjoyed the show," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were loud. They were active. It was split pretty good between Suns fans and Spurs fans and that's always a great environment to play in. So, the fans deserve a lot of credit for coming out and enjoying NBA basketball. I hope they got what they thought they were going to get."
That certainly appeared to be the case as the crowd served up "MVP" chants every time Leonard stood at the free throw line.
Leonard's performance registered as his 11th 30-point game of the season, which is the most by a Spurs player through the first 40 games of the season since 1995-96, when David Robinson put together 13 30-point outings.
"He's improving every year," Parker said. "He's already all-NBA first team. So, I think MVP is the next step for him."
Booker might not be far behind in his NBA ascension. His 39 points ranked as the most surrendered to a player by the Spurs since the 2014-15 season, when Kyrie Irving ran roughshod for 57 points.
"Obviously he was very aggressive. He can shoot the ball," Leonard said of Booker. "He got to the paint and made shots. Once he starts making shots, it's really hard to guard someone."
Although Leonard entered the contest Saturday as the two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the Spurs didn't use him to guard Booker until late in the fourth quarter. The Spurs spent the majority of the game using Parker to guard Booker, and the 20-year-old made sure to capitalize.
Booker scored 26 points in the second half, yet San Antonio led by 5 (85-80) to start the fourth quarter. The Spurs actually led by 11 with 1:22 remaining in the third, only to watch Booker and the Suns whittle down the lead.
San Antonio entered the game 26-2 when leading after three quarters this season, and its only losses under those circumstances had taken place in its past two defeats (Tuesday vs. Milwaukee and Jan. 1 at the Hawks). Make that three, courtesy of Phoenix.
On the flip side, Phoenix's win over the Spurs marked the Suns' third victory of the season when trailing entering the fourth quarter. Phoenix entered the contest holding a 2-23 mark in games it trailed to start the fourth quarter.
"I thought the Suns did a great job of being aggressive for 48 minutes," Popovich said. "They clearly played very competitively for the 48, as is evidenced by the 26, or so, second-chance points they got. And, we exacerbated that with 20 points off our turnovers. So, that was really the game. You don't want to come down to the end of the game having to make a shot to win it. You've got to win games earlier than that, but I thought that's what won the game for them -- their second-chance points and points off our turnovers. They did a great job."
San Antonio committed 16 turnovers, leading to 24 points from the Suns. But the Suns, as Popovich said, feasted heartily on second-chance points, outscoring San Antonio 28-10 in that department.
Leonard admitted the loss wiped away the shine of his career night.
"Definitely," Leonard said. "I'm never trying to break a career high out there. I'm always trying to come down with a win. That's what matters to me and my squad. It was definitely disappointing to come out with a loss."
As for Booker, Watson believes he's just scratching the surface in terms of his ability. Watson mentioned after Phoenix's loss on Thursday to the Dallas Mavericks that Booker is "on the verge of becoming a superstar." In that contest, Booker scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, which ranked as the most scored in any quarter in Suns franchise history.
"I'm excited for Devin Booker. He's only 20 years old. He doesn't turn 21 until October," Watson said. "So we're excited about his progression."