What: Phoenix Suns (3-2) vs New Orleans Pelicans (2-3), first round of 2022 NBA Playoffs, best of seven
When: 4:30 p.m. AZ time
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Listen: Arizona Sports 98.7
DraftKings betting line: Suns (-2) are favored and -135 to win straight up.
Suns are back to their old ways, including possibly getting Devin Booker back in the lineup. Even if he’s not able to go, guys like Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton have proven to be enough in his absence after they combined for 50 points on 30 shots in game 5’s 15-point win.
As further evidence of Bridges’ effectiveness, he held his defensive assignment — usually CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram — to just 4-19 shooting per NBA.com while he shot 12-17 on the offensive end. As JJ Redick called it, Bridges put together a “two-way masterpiece”:
Mikal Bridges appreciation video after his big game 5 @mikal_bridges pic.twitter.com/TDKPfcFYMC— JJ Redick (@jj_redick) April 27, 2022
I would expect to see another dose or two of a twin towers lineup in game 6 after the success it saw in game 5.
Another aspect to look for, unfortunately, is officiating.
Game 4 had the 42-15 free throw attempt difference that head coach Monty Williams addressed in postgame — and was consequentially fined $15,000.
Game 5 was a little better, though still not ideal for the Suns, as they lost the battle in attempts 35-20. Hopefully game 6 can be even better.
As far as injury reports go, Devin Booker is officially listed as “out”, but as we reported on earlier on Wednesday, we’re expecting he plays limited minutes, barring any setbacks. ESPN’s Woj confirmed the imminent return as well.
General manager James Jones spoke on Booker’s availability during a Wednesday appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 saying, “If he can go and... if there’s nothing that will put him at risk, then we’ll talk about it. But ultimately, if a guy’s healthy and he wants to play, he plays.”
On the New Orleans side of things, their report remains as clean as it was at the start of the series, with only Zion Williamson and Kira Lewis Jr. listed, both are of course out. We’ve seen Ingram look a bit hobbled at times throughout the series, but the Pelicans aren’t reporting any sort of injury for him.
I expect the Suns to win this game and move onto round two whether Booker plays 30 minutes, 15 minutes, or 0 minutes. This team is good enough to handle their business; they just have to continue to be the game 5 team (or even better) instead of the game 4 team.
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