Suns guard Devin Booker scored 13 points and hit a go-ahead three-pointer in a Game 6 win that pushed Phoenix past the New Orleans Pelicans and to the second round of the playoffs.
Coming off a hamstring injury, he started the game but not the third quarter — the shooting guard did return to the floor five minutes into the third of the eventual 115-109 victory Thursday at Smoothie King Center.
“I thought we were going to have a fist-fight over there, the look he gave me,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We had already talked about it, but we had to stick to the plan. It was going to be easier to finish with him and keep his minutes lower … I played him about eight more minutes than we wanted to.”
Booker scored two points in 13 first-half minutes, adding three rebounds and two assists. He shot 1-of-4 from the field.
Booker finished with 13 points, three assists and five rebounds on 5-of-12 shooting. He hit the go-ahead three with 1:42 left in the game, which gave Phoenix a 106-104 lead.
“The three in front of our bench, like, that was textbook Book,” Williams said. “There was so much attention on Chris (Paul) that somebody lost him.”
Cam Johnson started the third quarter in place of Booker, but it was planned to limit the latter’s minutes. Booker was set to check in at the end of the first half, but there was no break in action to allow for him to return.
Head coach Monty Williams said prior to the game that Booker would be on a minutes limit but didn’t give a specific number.
Booker was sidelined with the hamstring injury late in the third quarter of a Game 2 loss, and the Suns have gone 2-1 in the games that have followed.
Before going down with the strain, the guard scored 56 points on 52.6% shooting (57.9% from long range) in 65 minutes to start the series.
Johnson replaced Booker in the starting lineup in the three games before Thursday. In the three games as a starter, Johnson averaged 9.7 points on 37% shooting (35.2% from three-point land), five rebounds and 2.7 assists over 32 minutes per contest.
Guard Landry Shamet has also seen an uptick in minutes (21.8 per game) with Booker on the shelf after not playing in Game 1.