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Game 1 Preview: Suns host Pelicans to kick off playoffs

The Phoenix Suns kick off their redemption tour on Sunday night on TNT

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2021 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (0-0, 1st seed) host New Orleans Pelicans (0-0, 8th seed)

Why: Round 1, Western Conference Playoffs, 1 vs. 8

When: Sunday, 6:00 PM AZ time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: TNT

Listen: 98.7 FM


Here we go. Finally, the Phoenix Suns begin their playoff redemption tour and hope to get some revenge along the way. That Finals loss still burns after winning the Western Conference last year with a 12-4 playoff record and taking a 2-0 lead in those Finals, only to lose four straight and go home empty.

The Suns have talked all season about getting another crack at it while dominating the league all regular season with the league’s longest winning streak (18 games), best overall record (64-18), home record (32-9), road record (32-9), clutch record (33-9) and net margin (+7.5).

Now, it’s time. 16 wins to a championship.

They are chomping at the bit.

“I’m ready for the playoffs,” All-Star star Devin Booker said after practice on Saturday.

“I was ready two days ago,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said, when asked about prepping for round one.

On Sunday, the Suns play the New Orleans Pelicans to begin the first round elimination series. First to four wins moves on to the next round, and the Suns are expected to get those four wins in fairly short order against the last-seeded Pelicans.

They will go up against one of their closest friends, former Suns lead assistant Willie Green who got his first, and well-deserved, head coaching job last offseason with New Orleans. Green left for the big chair after two seasons in Phoenix, where he helped the Suns on the first two legs of their 10+-more-wins-each-season tour.

“Willie helped us build this program and a lot of the things [the Pelicans] do are what we do,” Williams said. “Those points in the game where you know the play that’s coming, it’s dealing with the talent.”

When you watch these two teams play, they will look very much alike in their actions. However, as Williams says, the talent running those plays is what will ultimately will decide the winner.

“I’m sure there’s gonna be some things that [the Pelicans] know about us that are shared from Willie and vice versa,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, it’s always gonna come down to finishing the plays.”

Willie Green was one of the reasons Chris Paul came to Phoenix, though not as big as joining Devin Booker and former coach Monty Williams. Paul and Green had previously been teammates for three seasons over two different teams and became fast friends that will remain long after both have retired from the sport.

“I talk to Willie all the time, all the time,” Paul said. “Throughout the season, good, bad, indifferent, more than just about basketball.”


Betting Lines

Now, the Suns need to get down to business and beat their close friend in order to advance in the playoffs and get another crack at that championship.

The Suns are favored by a wide margin to win the opening game — 10.5 point favorites in game 1, per DraftKings Sportsbook — and their odds to win the series (-2500) are more then twice as high as any other favored team.

Head on over to DraftKings Sportsbook to get in on the action.


Probable Starting Lineups

The Suns starting lineup is 31-7 this year, 26-10 last regular season, and carried the Suns all the way to the 2021 NBA Finals.

This Pelicans starting lineup is 9-3 this season, including the two Play-In games.


Injured/Out

Suns: Landry Shamet (foot) is QUESTIONABLE, Dario Saric (ACL) is OUT

Pelicans: Kira Lewis, Jr. (knee) is OUT, Zion Williamson (foot) is OUT


More Suns Notes

If you are new here and this your first taste of the Bright Side or if you’ve been around a while but just now clicked here to preview the game, stick around to check out BrightSideoftheSun.com in whole.

Half a dozen articles in the past 40 hours cover different angles of this series!


Pelicans Notes

This primary Pelicans lineup is fairly fresh, as you can tell by their mere 10-game regular season sample (12, if you count the Play-in games).

C.J McCollum was acquired at the trade deadline in early February from the tanking Blazers and has become the Pelicans top scorer (24.3 points per game, 49% FG, 39% 3P) and playmaker (5.8 assists). Both are career highs for the former Damian Lillard sidekick.

Second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram played just 55 of 82 games due to various injuries. When he’s healthy, he’s a triple threat with points (22.7), assists (5.6) and rebounds (5.8) per game.

On the wing, rookie Herbert Jones is a budding Mikal Bridges, and might already make an All-Defense well earlier in his career than Bridges. Like Mikal’s rookie season, Jones doesn’t score that much (9.5 points per game) but locks down the opponent’s best wing on a nightly basis.

Big man Jonas Valanciunas, on his third team in 10 seasons, is posting career highs in points (17.8) and assists (2.3) while grabbing 11.4 rebounds per game.

Again, this starting lineup is 9-3 this season including a pair of big Play-In wins, so don’t sell them short in your expectations. They will be competitive every game and will fight till the end.

Here’s head coach Willie Green imploring his young team not to lose their composure when they got down 10 points in the fourth quarter to the Clippers last Friday night.

“This is what we live for. This is what you worked hard for. We ain’t giving it up. We ain’t friggin giving this up. You got to bring the fight. You got to fight!”


Prediction

The Suns won all four series-opening games last year vs. the Lakers (w/o Chris Paul in the second half/Shoulder), Nuggets, Clippers (w/o Chris Paul/COVID) and Bucks. They know how to show up big to open a series.

The Suns were 3-1 against the Pelicans this year and the Pels have not even seen the full Suns team yet this year. Deandre Ayton missed the first two games (knee, COVID) then Chris Paul missed the last two (thumb).

The Suns are favored big, by 10.5 points as of Sunday morning.

I predict the Suns win this one, 120-105. They’re just too ready to get this thing going,


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