Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker suffered a hamstring injury in Game 2 of the western conference first round against the New Orleans Pelicans. Booker is likely to miss Games 3 and 4, and now the Suns might be in a dogfight just to escape the first round.
“I’ll whine and feel bad about it tonight,” coach Monty Williams said. “But we are 1-1, it’s a long series, and we get to go to their place, and we will do what we do. We’ve been really good on the road [NBA-best 32-9] — historically good on the road — and we’ve played without Chris and Book before. If we have to play without Book, next man up. We’ve done that all year long.”
Of course, there is truth to what Williams said. The Suns finished with the league’s best record at 64-18. They played without Book and Chris Paul for stretches and were able to maintain that pace. The Suns’ record this season without Book is 8-6. Without Paul it’s 11-6.
So it is a “next man up” mentality.
But this is the playoffs, not the regular season. There will be no games against the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Suns are playing the Pelicans in a best-of-seven series, and the Pelicans have belief after tying the series.
Paul, DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Cam Payne will all have to give a little more to make up for Book’s absence.
In Book, the Suns aren’t just missing a guy that can go off for 30+ at any time. He can create for himself and his teammates. He’s a three level scorer and an excellent free throw shooter. When offense gets bogged down at times, he is a pressure release valve.
The Suns have been better than the Pelicans all season. They need to make quick work of this series so Book has as much time to heal as he needs. Rest and treatment are the only things that heals a hamstring injury.
The longer the series goes the more chance they have of losing. If they do win a long series that’s a short turnaround time before round two.
In an ideal work they want to beat the Pelicans in five and hope the Dallas Mavericks versus Utah Jazz series goes the distance.
Booker has dealt with nagging hamstring issues the last couple seasons. Last November he strained his left hamstring, and last year during the NBA Finals, he suffered a hamstring injury in Game 3 but played through it. During the 2020-21 regular season, he also had a left hamstring injury and missed four games.
“That’s our brother, so obviously I hope everything goes right,” Mikal Bridges said. “But I know everybody is ready to step up, so we will be ready. We went through regular-season games without him, (Paul), (Deandre Ayton) … so we will be ready for sure.”
The Suns need to get back to their defensive principles, limit transition opportunities and control the defensive backboards.
They have enough to defeat the Pelicans, but a potential matchup with the Dallas Mavericks in the next round would be tough without Booker. Advancing to the conference finals without Book is highly unlikely.