Devin Booker — who scored 31 points in the first half — walked off the court and back to the Suns’ locker room during the third quarter of Game 2. He returned wearing warmups and did not re-enter to the game due to “hamstring tightness.”
However, the Phoenix Suns were in trouble long before that.
New Orleans came out with a game plan that got them out in transition more, they moved the ball and hit their 3s (54.8%), and they got 37 points from Brandon Ingram and 23 from CJ McCollum. Down the stretch, the Pelicans were the better clutch team against the regular season clutch kings.
The result was a 125-114 New Orleans win that evens the series 1-1 as it heads back to the Big Easy for Game 3 on Friday.
The big question heading into that game will be the status of Booker and his hamstring. There were not a lot of details after the game, with Phoenix coach Monty Williams saying his All-Star guard would receive treatment then they would see where things stood. Booker missed seven games back in November with a hamstring injury.
Booker injured it in the third quarter trying to chase down Jaxson Hayes and get a block.
here it is – jumps weird pic.twitter.com/uQH8PfgilX
— subtle alterity (@SubtleAlterity) April 20, 2022
The Pelicans had just 48 hours to game plan between beating the Clippers to earn the No. 8 seed and tipping off Game 1 against the Suns. New Orleans came out on Tuesday with a better game plan to attack Phoenix.
There were a lot of adjustments: Putting Hayes in the dunker’s spot rather than the corner, a more intense focus on protecting the paint, and the Pelicans got out and ran on the Suns — the Suns played terrible transition defense most of the game, especially in the clutch.
Booker was the reason the Suns were not behind early, scoring all of his 31 points in the first half and hitting some ridiculous 3-pointers that got him fist-bumps from babies.
Book 🤜🤛 Baby pic.twitter.com/wCITvG8zIj
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) April 20, 2022
Throughout the second half, everyone inside (and outside) the arena waited for the Suns to flip the switch and look like the 64-win team that pulled away from teams late all season long.
However, the only switch that flipped was Brandon Ingram, who had 10 points in the final five minutes, making clutch shot after clutch shot. Chris Paul made plays as well — he finished the night with 17 points and 14 assists. It wasn’t enough, not without Booker there. Behind Ingram, the Pelicans pulled away for the win and made this a series heading back to New Orleans.
Phoenix has a lot of questions to answer heading into Game 3, but it all starts with Booker’s hamstring.