When: 7:00 PM AZ time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Bally Sports AZ / NBA TV
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Pelicans again??!
Feels like the Suns can’t get away from these guys. After a hotly contested first round playoff series last April won by the Suns 4-2, the confident Pelicans are looking for payback every chance they get. So far, they’ve beaten the Suns twice this regular season — both last weekend, in New Orleans — and in the process took over the top seed in the Western Conference while knocking the Suns down to 4th in the West and extended their longest losing streak in three years to four straight games.
Since getting swept by the Pelicans, the Suns inexplicably dropped a 5th straight in Houston (though to be fair, the Rockets sandwiched that Suns game with a win over the Bucks and buzzer-beating loss to the Heat) before beating the listless, second-string Clippers in LA to snap a five-game losing streak.
Since the Pelicans swept the Suns, they themselves have gotten swept in a two-gamer by the Jazz in Utah. It’s a lot harder playing on the road than at home.
And now the Suns-Pelicans ‘series’ shifts back to Phoenix. You already know everything there is to know about these teams, so I’ll make the preview short and sweet.
But the bottom line takeaway is: December games means less than April games.
Probable Starting Lineups
Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (toe) is OUT
Suns: Deandre Ayton (ankle), Cam Payne (foot), Cam Johnson (knee), Jae Crowder (whatever) are all OUT
That crowd in New Orleans, still smarting from that playoff series where Chris Paul almost single-handedly beat them twice in NOLA, was booing Paul so hard last weekend that Suns TV color analyst Eddie Johnson swore they were piping in extra boos to ‘enhance’ the experience.
I’m not quite sure how Chris Paul, still probably the best player in New Orleans history, is so hated there, except that maybe he represents 500 years of suckitude since he left and they’re hoping the boos can chase away those scary ghosts.
Or it could simply be because Paul — who everyone said was being guarded so well by Jose Alvarado — ripped their hearts out in the games that mattered.
- Game 3: With Devin Booker out due to a hamstring injury and the Pelicans taking home court advantage with the series tied 1-1, Paul waltzed into NOLA and dropped 28 points and 14 assists while committing 0 turnovers to lead the Suns to the victory and back into a 2-1 series lead.
- Game 6: Book returned but was severely limited (worse than he looks this week, coming off another hammy injury), so Paul just went out and drained a playoff record 14 straight shots to CLOSE OUT the series on NOLA’s home floor.
No wonder NOLA hates Paul. Sure, he’s also an a-hole who walks around with a scowl and starts arguments constantly. But mostly it’s because he broke their hearts — AGAIN — but they don’t want to admit it.
I digress. This is the Pelicans update section after all.
Zion Williamson is back this season and looking like an MVP candidate. Against the Suns last weekend, he looked unstoppable in averaging 35 points per game. He’s another one of those guys — like Giannis, Luka and even Tatum — the Suns don’t seem to know how to defend because they keep sticking only one defender in his way and daring him to barrel through the chest.
If the Suns are going to go any further in the playoffs this year, they’re gonna have to try something new to beat bully-ball or it will be Zion this time that ends their season prematurely, after Giannis in 2021 and Luka in 2022.
Unfortunately, the Suns will not have their best Zion bully-ball defender because Deandre Ayton is already ruled OUT (ankle). It’s back to Torrey Craig, or Bismack Biyombo. Or coach Monty Williams just has to try something new like double teaming, blitzing or face-guard ball denial or... anything but single coverage.
Ayton is OUT. The Cams are both OUT. Jae Crowder is still and always will be OUT. Duane Washington is still OUT, dealing with a hip issue.
Booker is back, but once again is probably not at full strength while trying to get over another hamstring injury.
It’s so weird because Booker has only been healthy for 1.5 of the 8 games these two teams have played since April. Remember when Book had 31 at halftime of Game 2, but strained the hammy on a chase-down block attempt just before half? He missed the rest of that game and three more before returning for Game 6 as a decoy, scoring only 13 points in 32 minutes. Then in last weekend’s games, Booker was hurt again. He was nursing a turned ankle all week, then strained the hammy late in Friday’s game. He only scored 14 points all weekend.
Would be nice to get the good Book back. They need his scoring, but they also need him as the backup point guard behind Paul with Cam Payne out (foot). I just don’t think Landry Shamet is the right guy in that spot no matter how many times Monty tries it.
Make sure to check out more Suns stories on Bright Side. We’ve got key takeaways from the Clippers win, Josh Okogie as the biggest bright spot during this tough stretch, the Suns rank in the Ringer’s Top 100, and more. Just scroll down a tiny bit to see the latest.
If Book is Book, I think the Suns win this one and everyone will forget how awful they looked a week ago.