PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Tied, 1-1.
They’ll have to adjust on the fly as Johnson will sit out Game 3 of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Dallas Mavericks.
Johnson, who has played in all 287 games since coming to the Suns from Boston during his rookie season, underwent surgery Thursday to repair a displaced fracture in the bone around his left eye. He will miss at least the next two games of the series, and probably Game 5 in Phoenix as well, Suns president Bryan Colangelo said.
“He underwent reconstructive surgery for an orbital fracture,” Dr. Edward Joganic, who performed the operation, said in a statement.
Colangelo said the team wasn’t going to be more specific about how long Johnson could be out.
Johnson was injured when he was fouled by Jerry Stackhouse on a drive to the basket late in the first half of the Suns’ 108-106 home loss in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-7 guard hung on the rim briefly, then crashed face-first to the floor, and lay there for several minutes while receiving six stitches to close a cut near the eye.
Johnson climbed to his feet and made one of two free throws before leaving the game. Stackhouse was called for a flagrant foul, but the NBA rescinded it Thursday after reviewing the play.
Johnson has averaged 19 points a game in the playoffs, third-highest on the team. He has shot 57 percent from 3-point range (13-for-23), best of any player in the postseason.
“Joe’s been an iron man for us,” point guard Steve Nash said after the Suns practiced Thursday before leaving for Dallas.
“He never misses a practice. He never misses a game. He’s been such a huge part of our team. He’s had a great year, and he’s a great guy. It’s really tough for us. We’re just going to have to rally together and get it done for him.”
The Mavericks found a way to rally from a humbling 127-107 loss in Game 1. Dirk Nowitzki, who called out teammate Erick Dampier for his lack of offensive production and poor defense against Suns power forward Amare Stoudemire, hit what proved to be the winning shot with 6.8 seconds left Wednesday night as Dallas evened the series with a 108-106 victory.
Dampier, who didn’t score in the opener, put up 15 points and 12 rebounds. Michael Finley led Dallas with 31 points.
“We had a good talk, and I liked the way he responded,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said of Dampier. “Basically, he did what we brought him here to do. But we brought him in to do it consistently. Am I happy that he had 15 points and 12 rebounds? Yeah, but I’ll be happier when he strings together a couple of these games.”
It was the first playoff loss for the Suns after five straight victories and erased the homecourt advantage they had earned with an NBA-best 62-win regular season.
“I didnt think we were going to go four-four-four-four (sweeps), so that wasn’t going to work,” said NBA coach of the year Mike D’Antoni.
“We wouldve liked to have had this game. Sure, were disappointed, but I think we lost it. They did what they were supposed to do and played a nice game, and I dont think we did what were supposed to do.”
League MVP Nash, who spent the previous six seasons with Dallas, finished with 23 points and 13 assists for Phoenix. Stoudemire had 30 points and 16 rebounds.
Veteran sharpshooter Jim Jackson will take Johnson’s starting spot, hoping to re-energize the NBA’s top offense. Phoenix had its lowest point total of the playoffs Wednesday, and had scored at least 123 points in each of its previous two postseason games.
The Suns shouldn’t be daunted by the prospect of having to win at least one game on the road to take the series. They were an NBA-best 31-10 away from home this season. Dallas, however, finished right behind Phoenix at 29-12.
“We don’t really care (about being the visiting team), man. We kind of get a kick out of the crowd booing, having signs and chanting, stuff like that,” said Suns swingman Quentin Richardson. “We’re young, so we like that type of stuff. It motivates us.”
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Stoudemire, 26.8 ppg; Marion, 12.7 rpg; Nash, 11.8 apg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 22.2 ppg and 9.7 rpg; Terry, 3.9 apg.