Devin Booker suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain in Game 2 of the Phoenix Suns' series against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday and will miss the next two to three weeks, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. The Pelicans will prepare as if he is coming back sooner than that, per ESPN.
At practice on Thursday, Phoenix coach Monty Williams told reporters that Booker did nothing on the court, per ESPN's Andrew Lopez.
"You just have to wait and see how he progresses over the next whatever many days," Williams said. "But it is a finicky injury."
Williams told reporters that the reported timeline "didn't come from us," adding that, while he has been told privately about a possible timeline, the Suns' position is "for now, there is no timeline," via PHNX Sports' Gerald Bourgeut. Booker is officially listed as out due to a hamstring strain for Game 3 on Friday.
Just like he did after Game 2, Williams pointed to the team's ability to withstand injuries throughout the regular season.
"I don't think there's ever comfort when you don't have all of your guys," Williams said. "But there is experience in the uncomfortable."
Phoenix has "been able to do it without Book, without Chris (Paul), without (Deandre Ayton) from time to time," Williams continued. "Everybody's missed games except Mikal (Bridges) and we've been able to navigate those situations well this year and we know we can do it."
Booker was in the middle of a stellar performance when he went down with the injury. He scored 31 points in 25 minutes, and, when he dapped up a baby sitting courtside, it appeared that the Suns were on their way to a 2-0 series lead against the No. 8 seeded Pelicans. In the third quarter, however, Booker had to leave the game, and Phoenix went on to lose 125-114.
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The Suns will remain favorites as the series shifts to New Orleans, but the pressure is on. They no longer have home-court advantage, and, while they had an 8-3 record in the 11 games they played without Booker before clinching the No. 1 seed, only three of those games were against playoff opponents. In December, Phoenix blew out a Boston Celtics team that was still starting Dennis Schroder, and then it lost by 22 to a Golden State Warriors team that was on a tear. In March, the Suns hung with the Milwaukee Bucks for three quarters before losing by 10 without Booker or Paul. (The Bucks' stars were available, but rotation players Brook Lopez, Wesley Matthews, Pat Connaughton and George Hill were not.) Seven of Booker's missed games were due to a hamstring injury he suffered in November.
In the regular season, Phoenix scored a scorching 119.5 points per 100 possessions with Booker on the court and a dismal 110.4 per 100 without him, per Cleaning The Glass, which filters out garbage time. It made up for some of that, though, by being 5.5 points per 100 possessions stingier on defense without him.
Making up for the absence of your top scorer is a much taller order against a team that you've faced multiple times in a short period of time. In Booker's place, Williams could choose to match the Pelicans' size by starting Sixth Man of the Year finalist Cameron Johnson or he could preserve the second unit by going with sharpshooter Landry Shamet. Either way, expect Paul to assume more playmaking responsibility and backup guard Cameron Payne to get more playing time if Phoenix's offense needs a jolt. The Suns' road just got significantly tougher, but this is a deep, disciplined team with an offensive system that turns everyone on the floor into a threat.
"Without him, I think a lot of guys probably think you gotta do more," Paul told reporters Thursday, via PHNX Sports. "But we just gotta sort of do more together. Not individually. And I think we'll find a way to do that."
Shamet didn't play at all against New Orleans until Booker's injury, but checked in as soon as Booker exited on Tuesday. Shamet finished with five points on 2-for-3 shooting and a steal in 12 minutes.
"That's big-time, man," Paul said after the game. "That's just guys staying ready, and we're gonna need guys (in) Game 3. We're gonna need everybody throughout this deep playoff run that we hope that we have. It's been a season like that for us. Next man up, guys stay ready, and Sham was ready."
If this series goes the distance, Game 7 will be played on April 30. If the Suns advance, they will face either the Dallas Mavericks or the Utah Jazz. If they advance again, then they will begin the conference finals in mid-May.