The Phoenix Suns advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. And this is the team’s first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
Although the Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks by a 118-105 margin in Game 1, the news wasn’t all good. Backup center Dario Saric sustained a torn ACL injury early in the first quarter.
Not only did Saric not return to the court, but the Suns also announced that he will be out for the remainder of the series. Sure, Saric has not played a lot in these playoffs (10.5 minutes per contest). On the flip side of the coin, there’s more to the story.
For example, Saric had the best net rating of any player on the Phoenix Suns roster (12.1). Additionally, he recorded positive plus-minus box scores in five of the six games in the conference finals.
Furthermore, Saric gave the Suns a big body to use against a Bucks team that has size at multiple positions. And while Saric doesn’t stuff the stat sheet (4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest), his absence will be felt.
“It hurts,” Phoenix guard Devin Booker said via Arizona Sports. “He’s our energy in the locker room that you guys don’t get to see, but we love him and we are here with him. Obviously an unfortunate turn of events, but we’re going to reach out to him, we’re going to make sure he’s mentally right and that he’s in the right spirit and we’re on the road to recovery.
“As far as the court goes, obviously we’re going to be missing his presence and the things that he does out there, but everybody is going to have to give a little bit more.”
Which Suns players will rise to the occasion?
Fortunately for the Suns, they have a couple of different players that can step up in Daric’s absence. The first name that comes to mind is Frank Kaminsky. At 7’0″, he certainly has the size to match up against the Bucks frontcourt.
Another option is Torrey Craig, someone who has proven to be an adequate defender. The bad news is that this injury occurred at the worst possible time for Saric and the Suns.
On the positive side, Saric’s role was somewhat limited, as he played less than 11 minutes per contest. With that in mind, the Suns’ postseason run should continue without missing a beat.