For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe (rest on SEGABABA) and Tyson Chandler (ankle) return to the lineup alongside youngsters Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and T.J. Warren. Everyone else is healthy as well, except Dragan Bender (surgery, ankle). The only mild surprise for some might be that Derrick Jones Jr. is ACTIVE while Ronnie Price hits the inactive list.
For the Pelicans, Alexis Ajinca joins the starting lineup while Dante Cunningham (birth of child) and Terrence Jones (thumb) are out. With Ajinca are all-world Anthony Davis, rookie Buddy Hield, SF Solomon Hill and rookie Buddy Hield.
The Suns and Pelicans have gone nearly to the final possession in all three prior games this year, with the Pelicans coming out on top 2 of 3 times.
This game started out nearly (not really, but kinda) as bad as the Houston game, with the visiting Pelicans off to a 9-4 start and getting open looks. But then the Suns settled down, got some lucky bounces on loose balls, and kept it close.
They finally took the lead 18-17 on a Booker three-pointer. Bledsoe, Booker and Chriss scored all of the Suns’ first 20 points, while dishing 5 assists and grabbing 3 rebounds.
The game remained a tight affair all the way through the first quarter, with the Pelicans taking a 29-28 lead after one.
Eric Bledsoe had 12 points and 2 assists, while Devin Booker had 7 points and 3 assists and Marquese Chriss posted 6 points and 2 assists. Alex Len had 4 points and 2 rebounds off the bench.
The Suns started strong in the second quarter on the strength of veterans P.J. Tucker, Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa with Brandon Knight and Alex Len.
But the Pelicans bench was up to the task, going small with Etwan Moore, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway out there, and Solomon Hill at PF with Ajinca at C. The Suns took only a small 38-37 lead.
Both teams played fairly loose with the ball, but stayed even and Brandon Knight actually left the court with a positive plus/minus on 6 points, 2 assists and a rebound in 7 minutes.
Alex Len took a seat after 9 minutes, posting a very strong 10 points (4/6 shooting) and 5 rebounds in 10 minutes. Suns leading 48-44 at this point.
The Suns went on an 12-0 run from 44-44 to 56-44, highlighted by a really pretty Bledsoe backhanded dish to Booker in the corner for a three pointer.
I love how Booker has this knack for hitting that big jumper after the defense gets scrambled and the crowd is rising to it’s feet as they see it happening. It’s an underrated and uncommon skill.
Bledsoe didn’t just make that pass though. He also has 18 of the Suns first 55 points on drives, pull-ups and a three.
The Pelicans closed the gap to five at halftime, despite Bledsoe’s pair of missed FTs just before half.
Suns up 58-53.
The Suns came out cold, allowing the Pelicans to go on a 10-2 run before Watson called his second timeout.
The Suns just could not get it going, and the Pelicans maintained a solid lead through most of the third quarter by just stepping up their intensity level a couple notches beyond the Suns.
Brandon Knight came in to score five quick points - all within the offense! - to tie the game back up at 71-71.
Neither team had a good flow in the third, each team fumbling the ball and/or missing shots by the bushelful. And the Suns were racking up fouls.
But thanks to Brandon Knight, the Suns pulled back ahead 80-77 at the end of the third quarter.
Eric Bledsoe has 23 points, Devin Booker 16 and Brandon Knight 11.
Suns up 80-77 after three.
The game seesawed for the whole fourth quarter, the Pelicans helped by the refs and then by the Suns themselves.
Once, with the Pelicans down two points, Tyreke Evans clearly threw the ball out of bounds. However, it was SUCH a bad pass that the ref assumed the ball was tipped and gave it back to the Pelicans. P.J. Tucker drew a T for complaining. Pelicans scored three points.
Then, Tucker tried to rebound the ball but it went out of bounds off him. No one else was around.
Devin Booker scored five quick points to give the Suns back the lead, but Tyreke Evans made a long jumper as the clock expired to kick off a quick 6-0 run by the Pelicans to take back the lead 105-101. The Suns just can’t seem to get stops consistently. Hmm..
The Suns tied the game, but Davis scored to give the Pelicans another lead before Eric Bledsoe made ANOTHER shot to give the Suns a 1-point lead with 50 seconds left.
But then Anthony Davis gobbled a rebound in the middle of trio of Suns and put the ball back in the hoop as if he was playing with high schoolers.
Pelicans back ump 109-108.
A free throw later, it was 110-108.
18.4 seconds left.
On the final play, not only Eric Bledsoe but also P.J. Tucker (twice) missed put backs.
P.J. Tucker had a double-double in a spirited effort (11 and 14).
Devin Booker had 21 points and 3 assists.
Eric Bledsoe poured in 37 points, along with 5 assists.