DENVER – Suns point guard Chris Paul hobbled off the Ball Arena court in the third quarter of Phoenix’s 97-87 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series Monday night due to left groin tightness.
Paul’s status is uncertain as the series shifts to Phoenix with the Suns in an 0-2 hole against the Western Conference’s top seed. Game 3 is Friday night.
“All we can do is hope he has a speedy recovery,” Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, who had 35 points and six assists in the loss, said. “We’re going to be behind him. We’re going to hold it down while he is out — or if he’s out — and just take it from there.”
Paul, who exited the arena immediately after the final buzzer and did not speak to the media, checked out of the game with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter and immediately headed to the locker room.
A couple of possessions earlier, Paul grabbed his left groin after battling to box out Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Paul slowly walked up the court after the Suns got possession of the ball.
“He just came up where he couldn’t push off of it or anything,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not quite sure what it is right now, but it seems to be something in the groin area. We’ll find out more tomorrow.”
Paul, who turns 38 on Saturday, has dealt with playoff injuries multiple times throughout his surefire Hall of Fame career. He has missed eight career playoff games due to injury, most notably a hamstring strain that sidelined Paul for the last two games of the 2018 Western Conference finals, when his Houston Rockets built a 3-2 lead but lost to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.
Paul is averaging 12.4 points and 7.4 assists during this postseason. He has the Suns’ best plus-minus in the playoffs, as Phoenix has outscored opponents by 39 points over seven games with Paul on the floor.
The Suns, who lost consecutive games with Kevin Durant (24 points, 10-of-27 shooting) in uniform for the first time, led by three points when Paul exited. Denver outscored Phoenix by 13 the remainder of the game. Cameron Payne, the Suns’ backup point guard, scored two points on 1-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes, during which Phoenix was outscored by 16 points.
If Paul is unable to play, Booker will likely handle some of the point guard responsibilities. However, Williams expressed concern with asking any more of Booker, who has averaged 35.4 points and 6.6 assists in 42.9 minutes in the playoffs.
“I think it’s a lot,” Williams said. “He was probably more tired than he would admit, but with Chris off the floor, it puts a lot of pressure on him. So I got to figure that out.”
If necessary, Booker welcomes putting more on his shoulders.
“I mean, the playoffs is a lot,” Booker said. “A lot comes with this, so you just have to embrace it. Embrace the challenge, embrace the opportunity that we have right now, even down 0-2. Get back home, protect our home court and go from there. But a lot is on all of our plates, and that’s everybody throughout the playoffs right now.”