Devin Booker scored 31 points in the first half alone to help the Suns take a 61-56 lead, but went out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and never scored again.
Late in the 4th, the Pelicans took a 115-108 lead on back-to-back threes to give them 16 for the game (in 29 tries) with just over 3 minutes left. Chris Paul has shot only 4-13 to that point, and Jae Crowder is just 1-10. Mikal Bridges has picked up a secondary scoring role with 19 points. No sign of Book.
Things looked bleak.
Crowder finally made a shot, but then Brandon Ingram matched it. Chris Paul answered with a three of his own. Brandon Ingram answered with with a turnaround two. A missed Suns shot turned into a Pels fast break and a pair of free throws.
1:42 left and the Suns are still down 8.
The Suns defense was just bad in this game, and the Pelicans were excellent. Not sure how that team won just 36 games, the way they’re playing.
Pelicans head coach Willie Green is the MVP of this game. Brandon Ingram — 13-20 shooting, 37 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists — is the on-court MVP.
Pelicans win, 125-114.
Uh oh. 12 straight playoff losses, including a pair last year with Suns, most recently Game 3 of the 2021 Finals.
Reminder: Chris Paul is 2-16 all-time in the playoffs w/ Scott Foster as an official including 12 consecutive losses.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) April 20, 2022
His last win was G1 in the 1st round in 2013 - LAC over MEM.
Fun note: One of the 16 losses is Game 7 when the Hornets lost to the Spurs.
(h/t @ESPNStatsInfo) https://t.co/ucvjPHS1yH
Let’s see if the Suns get Foster’d again.
The game did not start out well — a corner three-ball attempt off the side of the backboard, an offensive rebound given up on THREE STRAIGHT Pelicans possessions, but yet the Suns took an 8-2 lead anyway.
But the Pels started making shots, and briefly took a 13-11 lead on CJ McCollum’s second three before Devin Booker made his second three to give the Suns the lead back.
The Suns had a 14-13 lead with 6:36 to go, and Devin Booker and Jae Crowder have accounted for 11 of the Suns 14 points.
At that point, though, the Suns went into a funk. The Pelicans went on a 12-4 run to take a 25-18 lead and force a Suns frustration timeout with 2:03 left in the first quarter. NO focus, already allowing a whopping 7 offensive rebounds in only 10 minutes of play. Team is shooting under 40%, 33% on threes.
Booker tried to will the team to stay in the game, draining 8 points in the next two minutes to help pull the Suns back to 30-28 after one quarter. Here’s what happened on the last shot of the quarter... Watch for the Book fadeaway, stay for the fist-bump.
Devin Booker had to dap up the young fan pic.twitter.com/fMxJ7DlfTB— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 20, 2022
Pelicans up, 30-28 after one. They have made 4 of 9 threes, 42% of all shots, and grabbed 17 rebounds to the Suns mere 9. Exactly the way they can win — kill the Suns on the boards and make more shots. Suns are lucky to only be down 2, and that’s thanks to Book — 4/6 on threes, 16 of the Suns 28 points. Players not named Book are shooting 5/13 from the field.
The Suns continued to struggle to get regular made shots, and had trouble stopping the Pels on the other end. The game remained nip and tuck throughout the first half of the second quarter. The Pels had a game plan that was working like the second half on Sunday night when they out-scored the Suns by 8 — rebound like hell on both ends, and make just enough shots to keep a lead.
Devin Booker tried hard to blow the Pelicans out all by himself, but the Suns bad weak side defense (probably sinking into the paint for rebound help) left Pelicans open for threes on almost every possession it seemed.
By halftime, Devin Booker had already made 7 threes (on 10 attempts) but the rest of the Suns only made 3 of 11 attempts, and the Pels were only down 5 because they made 9 of 19 on their end.
Suns up 61-56 at halftime.
Good: Booker has 31
Bad: Rest of team has 30 (only one other player has more than 4 points; Bridges with 10). Suns defense has been extremely leaky on the weak side (away from the ball), leaving Pel after Pel open for wide wide wide open threes time and again.
Coming out of the half, the Suns defense wasn’t much better. It’s almost like the New Orleans head coach knows this team like the back of his hand.
Brandon Ingram has started to be quite aggressive, going after his shot after being pretty quiet in the first half as the Pels made a ton of threes. And even so, the Suns are still leaving the weak side three open open open. Yeesh.
Since the Suns took a 58-50 lead late in the first half, the unflappable Pels have outscored them 19-9 to take a 69-67 lead after Brandon Ingram made yet another wide open weak side three.
Then Book got hurt, and went to the locker room and Landry Shamet came in to replace him, as the Suns went to an entirely bench unit, down three, 77-74.
Soon it was 88-80 and New Orleans was over 50% shooting for the game. Not sure they can play much better than this. Willie Green has them totally prepared — got to give him tons of credit.
Pels up 90-83 after three quarters. They out-scored the Suns 34-22 in that quarter. Devin Booker went out hurt. Chris Paul is 3-11 from the floor. Jae Crowder is 1-10.
In the fourth, the Suns started digging into the Pels lead but they made just enough shots to keep it. When Alvarado made the Pels’ 12th three (in 24 tries) they still had a 95-90 lead.
The Suns finally took a 96-95 lead on a Cameron Johnson steal and fast-break dunk to cap a 13-5 run. Time for the Pels to bring back their starters...
The game went nip and tuck again with both teams’ starters (minus Book this time) so someonesssss gonna have to step up this time.
CJ McCollum made a three to give the Pelicans a 4-point lead with just over six minutes left, 102-98.
Microcosm of this game: Cameron Johnson misses an open three, then on the other end Jose Alvarado drains one for the Pels. They have now hit 14 of 27 threes in this game, and are up 105-99.
A minute later, they made their 15th three (in 28 tries).
A minute after that, they made their 16th (in 29 tries). Sheesh.
This is how teams beat the Suns — make all your threes and grab all the boards (40-31 lead).
Pels up 115-108, with 3:17 to play.