The Phoenix Suns will likely be without star Devin Booker in the lineup for the next two games of the NBA Playoffs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Booker may miss Games 3 and 4 against the New Orleans Pelicans after injuring his right hamstring during the 125-114 loss in Game 2.
Sources tell ESPN Phoenix will wait for MRI results before ruling Booker out for at least the rest of the series. Willie Green will not wait around to alter his game plans toward Chris Paul.
Booker missed seven games earlier this year due to a hamstring injury and was slowed by a strain in last season’s NBA Finals. The injury opens up a chance for the Pelicans to swoop in and take control of the series. New Orleans has the next two games at home and will finally get multiple days off to refresh. They have been playing every other day since the NBA Play-In Tournament tipped off and have not slept in their own beds in over a week.
This is terrible news for Phoenix even though Monty Williams has led the Suns to an 8-6 record without Booker this season. He had 31 points in Game 2 before leaving with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. Coming off a 25-point Game 1, his absence leaves a scoring void that will be very difficult to fill while exposing some weaknesses New Orleans will look to attack.
Booker’s absence means Green can tailor his game plans to focus on Chris Paul. Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet might split Booker’s minutes but they do not demand the same attention. Shamet stepped into the starting role last time Booker went down, averaging 12 points and 2 assists while shooting 40% from the field.
The Pelicans can also target Paul and Booker's replacements on defense. Booker's normal assignment was Jaxson Hayes but now the Suns will have to rethink their strategy. Shamet, Johnson, and Payne will not be allowed to shade off of Hayes in the corner. Booker did so with a foot in the paint on many possessions in the first two games. Hayes was making adjustments to get more involved but now he could be featured.
The guesswork is out of the game plan with Booker sidelined. Paul is now 36 years old but he can still take over a game. Look no further than the fourth quarter of Game 1. New Orleans can now leave Herb Jones to hound Paul all night.
It is a tough break and no classy competitor wishes an injury on an opponent. Still, this unfortunate injury could wind up being the turning point of the series. The New Orleans Pelicans learned to cope with their own struggles this season. They won't feel bad taking a few wins away from a team missing their best player.