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Final Score: Suns win! 112-97 over Pelicans, take 3-2 series lead

2022 NBA Playoffs - New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

For a while there, we finally got to see real Phoenix Suns basketball!

Chris Paul was lively, the offense was clicking and then finally the lid came off the rim from three-point land. The Suns had a 15-point lead early in the second quarter and the rest of the game was the Pels trying to get it under 10.

They mucked up the game, and the Suns helped out by committing a ton of dumb fouls when they were trying to be aggressive. Jae Crowder got five fouls by early third quarter. Cameron Payne got five by mid third quarter.

The Pels once again got to the line a ton, leading the Suns 30-14 in free throw attempts by early in the fourth quarter.

They did pull to seven points with just over four minutes left, but Chris Paul pushed it back to 11 with a middy and a rip-through pair of free throws. The Pelicans never got it under 9 again.

Mikal Bridges really stepped up as an outlet on offense, scoring 31 big points on 12 of 17 shooting (4 of 4 on threes). Chris Paul had 22 points and 11 assists. Deandre Ayton had 19 and 9 rebounds.

The Suns hit that magic 40 — in rebounds — for the first time all series. They lost the rebound battle by only 7 this time.

Suns win, 112-97!

The Phoenix Suns now have a 3-2 lead in their first round series against the Pelicans, and just need one more win to close out the series.

Game Flow

The Phoenix Suns came out on FIRE with energy and playmaking that reminded me of the best team in the NBA for the first time in weeks, taking a 14-8 lead to force Willie Green’s first timeout to reset his team.

The Suns took a 21-18 lead when the Pelicans went back to their ‘two big’ lineup pairing of Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance that’s been killing the Suns on the boards. This time, Monty Williams responds with bringing Deandre Ayton back to pair with JaVale McGee. Rebounding will be improved for the Suns, but I’m not sure about anything else... like spacing. With them are Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet and Jae Crowder (till he copped his second foul).

The Suns defensive activity is extremely high, with four steals early in the action, and even got their first three from CAM PAYNE — his first of the series.

But foul trouble could hurt these Suns again, with Payne picking up his third foul with a minute left in the first quarter, after Jae Crowder had picked up his second foul.

The Suns finished the first quarter up, 32-20. Chris Paul looks like himself, with 8 points, 3 assists and 2 steals in 9 minutes. Suns shoot 54% for the quarter, attacking the rim with abandon. Cam Payne had 7 off the bench. Deandre Ayton had 8 points and 2 rebounds, and the Suns actually LEAD in rebounding 11-9 after one quarter. The only downside: still can’t hit threes (1-for-7).

Biyombo starts the second quarter and helps force a turnover. The Suns took a 36-22 lead before a small Pelicans run pulled it to 38-27.

With Payne’s three fouls, we get to see some Aaron Holiday, who I really like as a matchup against the Pelicans smalls of Alvarado and Graham.

Quickly, the Suns went up 43-28 with Aaron Holiday making some plays, along with the efforts of DA and Bridges. These Suns are on FIRE tonight. It’s crazy they’re up 15 and they are still not making threes (1-for-9 now).

The Suns had a 46-34 lead when Aaron Holiday made the Suns second three of the game. But then Jae Crowder committed his 3rd foul of the half, putting Brandon Ingram on the line. He had to come out.

The Pelicans tried to get back in the game with Jose Alvarado climbing into Chris Paul’s jersey, but the Suns used a lot more action (picks) to get Paul running downhill to initiate the offense.

The basket finally started opening up, with Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet all making a three during a run that got the Suns lead back up to 15.

Suns lead at half, 59-46

The Suns came out in second half and continued to pour it on from the outside, taking a 75-58 lead with their 8th three of the game (and 7th of the last 12 attempts) just under 5 minutes into the half.

Chris Paul is up to 16 points and 8 assists. Deandre Ayton has 18 and 6. Mikal Bridges is up to 13 points, including 3/3 on threes. On the downside, Crowder now has 5 fouls.

This is a good sign, considering the Suns have lost the 3rd quarter in all four games before this, by an average of 11 points.

Yet, the Pelicans employed their strategy well: get the Suns in foul trouble, get into the bonus, and let Brandon Ingram go to work. Soon, the Suns lead was down to 10, a not-good sign as Cam Payne helped the Pelicans by committing his fourth and fifth fouls, matching Jae Crowder for team high.

A Cam Payne three, his second of the game and the series, gave the Suns an 11-point lead after three quarters, 89-78. Payne now inexplicably has 12 points and 5 fouls in only 7 minutes of play. I’ve never seen this from a POINT GUARD before. Maybe JaVale McGee has posted something like that before.

Into the fourth quarter, the Suns and Pelicans continued their onslaught on each other. Definitely, the Suns rhythm is gone with all these foul calls.

Pels on offense. Suns foul. Rinse. Repeat.

Stop fouling please. Pelicans now have a 30-14 lead on free throws.

Jose Alvarado got into Chris Paul again, this time forcing a turnover because he didn’t get the ball over half court within 8 seconds. Paul was so mad he got a T, but the Pels missed it. The Suns got a steal, but then turned it over on the fast break and... well.... another foul called on the Suns.

Then Chris Paul happened. First, he uses a DA screen to get open and makes his patented middy after faking Alvarado out of his uniform. Then he induces rookie Herb Jones into the swipe-through and gets to the line with the Pels FINALLY in the penalty. Suns up 11.