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Chris Paul pumped in 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and also recorded 14 assists without committing a turnover to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 114-111 victory over the host New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, April 22 (Saturday, April 23, Manila time).
Deandre Ayton added 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and collected 17 rebounds to help the Suns take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Phoenix prevailed despite Devin Booker being sidelined due to a right hamstring injury.
Brandon Ingram recorded 34 points and 7 rebounds and CJ McCollum had 30 points and 7 assists for the Pelicans.
Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.
Cameron Johnson started in place of Booker, who was injured in Game 2 and is expected to miss the rest of the series. Without the long-range bomber, Phoenix focused on the inside game as Ayton and JaVale McGee (15 points on 7-of-8 shooting) helped the Suns produce a 64-40 edge in points in the paint.
Jae Crowder scored back-to-back baskets to give the Suns a 102-95 lead with 2:08 left in the game. McCollum scored a basket for the Pelicans with 1:55 left, but Paul hit a floater and Mikal Bridges sank two free throws to make it 106-97 with 49 seconds remaining.
Ingram tallied 9 points in less than 20 seconds as New Orleans trimmed its deficit to 110-106 with 22.5 seconds to play. However, Bridges made four straight free throws as Phoenix staved off the charge.
Bridges tallied 17 points and Crowder added 10 for Phoenix, which shot 50.6% from the field despite being a miserable 15.4 % from three-point range (4-of-26). The Suns committed just six turnovers while forcing New Orleans into 15 giveaways.
Devonte’ Graham and Herbert Jones added 12 points apiece for the Pelicans, who made 48.1%of their shots and were 11-of-32 (34.4%) from behind the arc.
The score was tied at 43 in the second quarter when New Orleans’ Jaxson Hayes pummeled Crowder as McCollum’s shot went through the net. The officials reviewed the play and gave Hayes a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection with 5:13 left in the half.
The Suns were energized after the incident and went on a half-closing, 16-5 burst to lead 59-48 at the break. Ayton led Phoenix with 21 first-half points.
New Orleans trailed by 13 early in the third quarter but later inched ahead at 74-73 on Ingram’s jumper with 3:33 left. Phoenix led 81-79 entering the final stanza. – Rappler.com