It’s unfortunate NBA fans were robbed of what was bound to be a special moment on Tuesday night in Phoenix. Devin Booker was going supernova, putting up 31 points in the first half and taking the breath out of every spectator as they watched it unfold. The Suns' superstar seized the moment and pounced on the New Orleans Pelicans relentlessly, potentially on his way to dropping a postseason 50-burger.
As such, Phoenix was also well on its way to taking a commanding 2-0 series lead before the series shifted back to New Orleans, but Booker exited midway through the third quarter due to right hamstring tightness. Booker suffered the injury chasing Jaxson Hayes back in transition, which was a bugaboo for the Suns throughout their 125-114 loss in Game 2.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Booker has a mild hamstring strain, which is likely to keep him out of the next two games in New Orleans. The positive note, though, is that the strain is believed to be mild, and Booker hasn’t been ruled out for the remainder of Phoenix’s opening-round series.
“It is what it is. It’s part of the game, you know what I mean," Chris Paul said postgame of losing Booker. "We got guys that are more than capable of stepping up. I mean, Book was killing it. He was having a big time game, but it is what it is.”
Booker erupted in the first half against the Pelicans, and he continued to stay hot in all portions of the game. Kicking it all off with 16 first-quarter points, Booker followed his opening frame with 15 in the second quarter. Hitting 7 threes along the way, the Suns' 25-year-old star was doing whatever he wanted against New Orleans.
“He was hot. He was scoring the ball well and playing well all across the board, so it is what it is," Cameron Johnson said. "We have to continue to fight and continue to play our style of basketball.”
Booker returning for Game 5 in six days could very much be in play, especially if it’s indeed mild and there’s no setbacks. If the Suns are able to split against the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center, their job will be done in snatching back home-court advantage without Booker.
As New Orleans showed in Game 2, though, it is a group ready to make this tough on the betting favorites to win this year’s NBA Finals.
Pelicans head coach Willie Green, a former Suns assistant, put together an excellent game plan to stymie Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul from having major impacts. Green has implemented Suns-esque DNA into the Pelicans, empowering his players to the highest belief and the same never-give-up mindset.
When Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum catch fire simultaneously, it's tough for any team to handle. However, the Suns’ lack of defensive discipline on the perimeter was apparent, as the Pelicans shot a blistering 17 of 31 on threes. Ingram put on a scoring clinic with 37 points — most of which came against Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Mikal Bridges — reminding everyone just how special of a talent he is.
As our own Nekias Duncan wrote, Phoenix’s adjustments without Booker will revolve around its patented ball movement in head coach Monty Williams’ “0.5 offense” scheme. More of the burden will be on Paul’s shoulders, and the Pelicans have forced Phoenix into having Jae Crowder or Johnson bring the ball up the court to avoid Herb Jones' full-court pressure on CP3.