Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals was almost entirely good for the Phoenix Suns, who saw their three stars all play tremendously well, led by Chris Paul, in a comfortable 118-105 win to open the series.
However, there is one significant portion of concern as backup big man Dario Saric left for the locker room in the first quarter and did not return with a right knee injury. On Wednesday, the Suns top reserve center underwent further testing and an MRI, which revealed he had suffered a torn ACL.
Suns forward/center Dario Šarić has sustained a torn ACL in his right knee. He will be out indefinitely.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 7, 2021
Saric is the Suns lead backup for Deandre Ayton, and while his minutes have dropped to 10.5 per game in the postseason, he provides them with a small-ball alternative as a capable spot-up shooter when they need to give their young star big man a breather. Without Saric, who only played two minutes in Game 1 before his injury, it appears the Suns will be willing to extend Ayton’s minutes when needed (he played 39 in the opener), turn to Frank Kaminsky for spot minutes (he played 4 minutes) and also experiment with real small-ball with Torrey Craig, Jae Crowder, and Cam Johnson playing frontcourt minutes without a traditional big man at times, depending on the matchup.
Hopefully Saric is able to make a full recovery and return to the strong form he showed this season, but the timing of the injury puts his 2021-22 season in jeopardy. In the immediate, Phoenix is going to have to look at a variety of options in these Finals, with the Bucks’ rotations likely dictating when and how often the Suns try to go without a traditional big man on the floor.