When: 6:30 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Suns looked a little more like themselves in game 3, playing a brand of ball that’s a lot closer to the “everybody eats” mantra than the first half of game 2, when the now-injured Devin Booker scored 31 of Phoenix’s 61 first half points.
Phoenix got star-level games out of both Deandre Ayton (28 points, including 21 in the first half, and 17 rebounds) and Chris Paul (28 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, and 14 assists), but four other players contributed 8-plus each:
- Mikal Bridges: 17
- JaVale McGee: 15
- Jae Crowder: 10
- Cam Johnson: 8
As for the playoff production of those non-star players, it’s been lacking for most of the postseason, especially from deep:
thinking about how suns are up 2-1 in a series in which...— damon allred (2-1) (@iamdamonallred) April 23, 2022
- booker: missed ~1.5 games
- mikal: 28.6% from 3 (36.9% in reg szn)
- johnson: 30.8% from 3 (42.5%)
- crowder: 0-14 from 3 (34.8%)
- payne: 0-7 from 3 (33.6%)
Only two Pelicans took more than eight shots in game 3 (Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum), so Phoenix should sell out to limit the kinds of looks those two get. (For reference, five Suns shot at least eight times, two more had seven.)
If it means giving forward Ish Wainright his first career playoff minutes like John Voita suggested on Saturday, I’m all for it, though I’d like those minutes to come in addition to Torrey Craig’s, at least while Booker remains out. My philosophy during these non-Booker stretches is to load up on big, defensive wings as much as possible, since the offense will inherently be a little hamstrung (pun intended).
The other key in this game will be responding to Willie Green’s adjustments after Deandre Ayton’s big game 3. Oftentimes in these closely-fought playoff series, teams will sell out to stop the thing that hurt them in the last game.
That means a more clogged paint is likely coming in game 4, opening up the deep shots a bit more. At that point it’s up to the shooters — who have obviously been struggling in this series — to make the shots. If they can, Suns will be able to take that coveted and commanding 3-1 lead.
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