Suns vs. Pelicans rating, takeaways: Chris Paul’s fourth-quarter wizardry helps Phoenix take 2-1 series lead

Despite the absence of main scorer and All-Star Devin Booker, the Phoenix Suns secured a 114-111 street win over the New Orleans on Friday night time to take a 2-1 lead of their first-round matchup. Suns guard and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul was merely phenomenal down the stretch, scoring 19 of his 28 factors within the fourth quarter to fend off the pesky Pelicans, whereas meting out a game-high 14 assists.

Deandre Ayton was a beast inside, placing up 28 factors and 17 rebounds to go together with three steals and a block, whereas Mikal Bridges added 17 factors and went 9-for-9 from the free throw line, making some clutch ones down the stretch. The Pelicans had been led by 34 factors and 7 rebounds from Brandon Ingram, whereas his operating mate CJ McCollum added 30 factors and 7 assists.

Game 4 will take place on Sunday in New Orleans, however earlier than we get to that, let’s take a take a look at 4 key takeaways from Game 3 adopted by a recap of our reside updates from the night.

1. CP4th

Through three quarters, Paul had 9 factors and had largely seemed to arrange his teammates whereas staying inside the offense. When the fourth quarter got here round and the sport was shut, nonetheless, Paul went to work in the best way solely he can. With the Suns trailing by some extent with six minutes left within the sport, Paul made 4 consecutive mid-range jumpers to present his group a five-point lead.

Paul set these up by passing the ball to teammates (principally Ayton) for a lot of the sport. In crunch time, he used the additional cushion to get to his spots and make jumpers which can be primarily layups for him at this level in his profession.

“In that fourth quarter, [Ayton] instructed me on the timeout, he mentioned, ‘C, I’mma get you unfastened. Shoot the ball,’ ” Paul mentioned after the sport. “Him simply being outspoken like that’s huge for our group, as a result of we’d like him and we belief him.”

In addition to his wizardry within the mid-range, Paul additionally knocked down all 4 of his free throws because the Pelicans had been enjoying the foul sport within the closing minute to make sure there was no likelihood of a comeback. With Booker out of the lineup, Paul knew he needed to go to work as a scorer down the stretch, and he executed brilliantly.

2. Bully ball

During the common season, the Suns had been second within the league with 16.2 mid-range shot makes an attempt per sport, based on It is smart since these are sometimes the photographs that defenses bait offenses into taking, and Phoenix has two of the most effective midrange shooters within the league with Booker and Paul. The Suns modified up their sport plan with Booker out on Friday night time, nonetheless, eschewing mid-range jumpers in favor of excellent, old style bully ball.

Phoenix outscored the Pelicans 64-40 within the paint and, excluding Paul, tried simply 4 photographs from the mid-range all sport lengthy, making three of them. The relaxation got here from inside the important thing or behind the 3-point line.

Ayton was a monster inside, connecting on every thing from dunks to leap hooks en path to his playoff career-high 28 factors.

Ayton wasn’t the one Suns middle to do injury, both. JaVale McGee was the primary offensive risk off the bench, scoring 15 factors on 7-of-8 taking pictures, all of which got here contained in the paint, as you would possibly anticipate. The Suns managed to win regardless of making solely 4 3-pointers on the night time, which is hard to do within the trendy NBA except you completely dominate the paint.

3. Stars disappear for New Orleans

Ingram was phenomenal on Friday, notably within the third quarter, however there was a stretch towards the top of the sport when he was noticeably absent. Ingram checked in on the 6:32 mark of the fourth quarter and had only one shot try — he knocked down an elbow jumper — as Paul and the Suns constructed the lead to 9 factors with lower than a minute left. Ingram scored 9 factors within the closing 49 seconds, however they had been desperation photographs with the sport already out of attain.

During that essential time when Ingram solely had one shot try, Jose Alvarado missed a troublesome layup and Larry Nance Jr. missed two 3-pointers. McCollum’s layup with 1:55 left was his first shot try for the reason that 7:53 mark. Alvarado and Nance had been each nice for the Pelicans, however the Pelicans merely wanted to discover a solution to get their two finest scorers and playmakers alternatives down the stretch. Instead, they had been unable to stem the tide, and the Chris Paul machine despatched them house with a loss.

4. Tempers flare

Pelicans huge man Jaxson Hayes and Suns ahead Jae Crowder had been going backwards and forwards with some trash discuss early within the sport, and issues reached a boil with simply over 5 minutes left earlier than halftime. As Crowder ready to go after a rebound, Hayes got here crashing in from the perimeter, delivering a reasonably vicious shove to Crowder’s again. After evaluate, Hayes was assessed a flagrant 2 and ejected from the sport.

Hayes has been essential for the Pelicans on each ends this season, so there is not any telling how a lot his absence affected the end result of the sport. It will even be attention-grabbing to watch how Hayes and Crowder work together for the remainder of the series.

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