Chris Paul scored 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the Phoenix Suns deflate a New Orleans comeback attempt and post a 110-99 victory over the visiting Pelicans in the opening game of their Western Conference playoff series on Sunday, April 17 (Monday, April 18, Manila time).
Paul made 12 of 16 field-goal attempts – including 4 of 6 from three-point range – and also contributed 10 assists, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals for top-seeded Phoenix, which led by as many as 23 points in the wire-to-wire victory.
Devin Booker recorded 25 points and 8 assists, while Deandre Ayton added 21 points and 9 rebounds for the Suns.
CJ McCollum registered 25 points and 8 rebounds as Jonas Valanciunas contributed 18 points and a franchise postseason-record 25 rebounds for eighth-seeded New Orleans. Brandon Ingram also scored 18 points and Larry Nance Jr. added 14 for the Pelicans.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Nance drilled a three-pointer with 9:41 to go in the game to bring New Orleans within 87-81. Paul responded with a pair of three-pointers, a layup, a short shot, and a driving layup through traffic during a span of 3:25 minutes as the Suns stretched their lead to 99-85 with 6:01 remaining.
Mikal Bridges and Ayton added baskets as the Phoenix lead grew back to 18 with 4:48 left. New Orleans later made one last push and Trey Murphy III drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 106-97 with 1:44 left before Phoenix closed it out.
Cameron Johnson added 13 points and Bridges tallied 11 for Phoenix, which shot 53.8% from the field, including 10-of-28 from three-point range.
The Pelicans made 37.9% of their shots and were 9-of-23 from behind the arc.
The Suns displayed they were not rusty while leading by as many as 16 points in the first quarter. Phoenix shot 61.1% (11-of-18) from the field in the period while the Pelicans made just 23.1% (6-of-26). The Suns took a 28-16 lead into the second quarter.
Ayton connected on a three-pointer to give Phoenix a 51-29 advantage with 59.4 seconds left in the half. The Suns led 53-34 at the break.
Phoenix expanded its lead to 65-42 on a trio of Booker free throws with 8:29 left in the third quarter. New Orleans trailed by 21 with 5:37 remaining in the session before whipping up a 16-2 burst to move within 76-69.
A Nance steal and layup with 0.3 seconds remaining left the Pelicans down 79-71 entering the final stanza. – Rappler.com