Phoenix Suns veteran point guard Chris Paul sustained a groin injury in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, and he’s expected to miss multiple games.
The Suns trail the Nuggets 2-0 in their playoff series after they dropped the first two games on the road in the thin air of Colorado. The series migrates to Phoenix for the next two games. The Suns are fighting for their first win against the Nuggets, and will do so without their floor general.
It’s an unfortunate event, obviously,” said teammate Devin Booker. “All we can do is hope he has a speedy recovery. We’re going to hold it down while he’s out.”
It was only a matter of time before an injury-prone Paul got dinged in the postseason. The veteran point guard, who turns 39-years old this weekend, struggled with injuries in the postseason during his illustrious career in which he’s never won a championship.
In the 2018 Western Conference Finals, Paul was a member of the Houston Rockets and an untimely hamstring injury derailed their championship aspirations. Without Paul, the Rockets blew a 3-2 series lead against the Golden State Warriors and were denied a trip to the 2018 NBA Finals.
In his first season with the Suns, Paul led them to the 2021 NBA Finals but he was slowed down by a wrist and finger injury. The Suns eventually lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Injury Bug Finally Catches Paul This Year
Paul attempted to rebound a missed shot midway through the third quarter of Game 2, but landed awkwardly while a teammate snagged the loose ball.
CP3 just looked like he was boxing out,” said head coach Monty Williams. “He just came up where he couldn’t push off of it or anything.”
A video replay showed Paul immediately grabbed his groin area and gingerly made his way back up the court. He exited the game on the next dead ball and did not return. In 25 minutes of action in Game 2, Paul tallied eight points, six assists, and five rebounds before his injury.
In two losses against the Nuggets, Paul averaged 9.5 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game. During the regular season, Paul appeared in 59 games, which was his lowest total since joining the Suns prior three seasons ago. He averaged 13.9 points, 6.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 37.5% from 3-point range.
An MRI revealed a strained left groin, and he’s out for at least the next two games when the Suns host the Nuggets in Phoenix on Friday and Sunday. If the Suns can avoid a sweep, then the Nuggets host Game 5 next Tuesday in Denver.
Paul is expected to undergo an evaluation next Monday to determine if he’s able to play at all next week, but early reports indicated he’s out through Game 5.
chris paul grabbing at his groin after this play here pic.twitter.com/pgytRjqaES
— Cage (@ridiculouscage) May 2, 2023
Suns Desperate for Bench Help
Backup point guard Cameron Payne is recovering from a back injury, and missed the first four games of the opening-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. He logged only three minutes of court time in the series-clincher in Game 5, and made a brief five-minute appearance in Game 1 against Denver.
When Paul went down in Game 2, Payne played 17 total minutes but was ineffective with just two points, one assist, and one rebound. He struggled on offensive while shooting 1-for-7 from the floor including 0-for-4 on 3-point attempts.
Head coach Monty William will also have to rely on combo guard Landry Shamet, who averaged just 1.4 points in 11.4 minutes per game against the Clippers in the first round. Shamet averaged 8.4 points per game this season.
The Suns acquired veteran guard Terrence Ross from the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline, and he averaged 9.0 points and 3.3 assists per game in 21 games off the bench for the Suns. Ross could see a bump in playing time, but he barely cracked the playoff rotation with just nine total minutes of action in seven postseason games.
The Suns knew their bench would be a liability in the postseason. They had to give up several key role players to acquire Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. They made a calculated gamble that the addition of Durant would outweigh their bench deficiency.
In seven playoff games, the Suns’ bench averaged 13.5 points per game. Against the Nuggets, the second unit averages only 12.5 points per game. In Game 2, the bench was limited to just four points.
Booker On Fire, Waiting for a Durant Breakout
The Suns face an uphill battle against the Nuggets after falling into an 0-2 hole. They scored just 87 points in Game 2 and needed more firepower if they expect to challenge the Nuggets in the remainder of the series.
Jimmy Butler (34.5 ppg) from the Miami Heat is the only player who is averaging more points per game in the playoffs than Suns shooting guard Devin Booker (34.4 ppg).
Booker torched the Clippers for 45 points in Game 3 and 47 points in Game 5. He averaged 37.2 points per game in the first round and shot 46.7% from 3-point range.
The Nuggets held Booker to 27 points in Game 1 with just one 3-point attempt, and it was only the second game this postseason in which he scored fewer than 30 points in a single game. Booker dropped 35 points in a Game 2 loss while shooting 50% from beyond the arc.
Durant averages 27.9 points per game in the postseason, but he has yet to erupt for a monstrous scoring performance. He scored 29 points in Game 1 against the Nuggets, but they held him to only 24 points in Game 2.
I had good looks,” Durant told The Athletic after Game 2. “They just didn’t go down.”
Booker was shouldering the majority of the scoring burden before Paul’s injury. With the Suns facing an 0-2 deficit, they’re wondering when Durant the sleeping giant will wake up from his slumber. After the Nets traded Durant to the Suns, he only appeared in eight regular season games with his new squad due to an ankle injury.
Betting the Suns/Nuggets in Game 3
Phoenix opened Game 3 as a -5 favorite, but the line moved to -3.5 after news broke about Paul missing multiple games with the groin injury.
The Nuggets are now -425 odds to win the series and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Suns are the underdog at +340 odds, but they were the favorite at -140 odds before the series began. FiveThirtyEight predicts the Nuggets have an 87% chance to win the series, and the Suns have only a 13% chance.
The Suns also saw their projections drop significantly after losing the first two games of the series. FiveThirtyEight projects the Suns have a 6% chance to advance to the NBA Finals with a 2% chance to win the championship. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, the Nuggets now have a 47% chance to secure a spot in the NBA Finals with a 20% chance to win the title.
The Suns saw their 2022-23 championship odds drop to +1200, while the Nuggets are now the second favorite on DraftKings’ futures board at +425. The Boston Celtics are the consensus favorite to win the title at +190 odds.
The Nuggets are now the betting favorite to win the Western Conference at +130 odds, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers (+220), Golden State Warriors (+350), and Suns (+600).
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