PHOENIX — Chris Paul scored 19 of his 30 points during a brilliant shooting performance in the fourth quarter and the Phoenix Suns defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 110-99 in Game 1 of the first round playoff series on Sunday night.
The top seeded Suns needed Paul’s big finish despite dominating most of the game. The Pelicans shrugged off a slow start and reduced a 23-point deficit to 79-71 by the end of the third.
New Orleans kept hitting shots in the fourth, but then Paul took over, hitting three 3-pointers and a layup in 2 1/2 minutes in a flurry that continued to dog the Pelicans. The timeless veteran will turn 37 later in these playoffs if the Suns advance far enough, but again looked a decade younger.
Paul has never won a championship and came close with the Suns last year when they lost to the Bucks in six games in the Finals. He’s fond of saying that he never takes postseason basketball for granted and that his 130th playoff game of his career was among his best.
Game 2 takes place in Phoenix on Tuesday night.
The Suns led 47-0 in the regular season when they led after three quarters. It’s now 1-0 in the playoffs.
Paul shot 12 for 16 from the field, including 4 of 6 at 3-pointers.
Devin Booker – who finished on 25 points – hit a 3-pointer on first possession and the Suns were never behind, using a ferocious defensive effort to quickly take control. Phoenix led 53-34 at halftime, forcing the Pelicans on just 11 of 49 shots (22%) before the break.
Sun’s big man Deandre Ayton was particularly dominant on defense with four blocks and had 21 points and nine rebounds. At one point in the third quarter, he batted a shot from Jonas Valanciunas and turned to the crowd, screaming as the fans returned with a roar of approval.
CJ McCollum led the Pelicans by 25 points but struggled with his shooting for most of the night. He finished 9 of 25 from the field. Valanciunas added 18 points and 25 rebounds. Brandon Ingram scored 18 points.
New Orleans made its surprise trip to the playoffs by winning two games in the play-in tournament and beating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 on Friday night.
That gave the pelicans a lot of momentum, but the suns had the fresh legs and it showed.
The Suns’ initial energy was impressive, especially on defense. They led by 16 at one point in the first quarter before settling for a 28-16 advantage in the second.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/18/chris-pauls-big-night-lifts-suns-to-game-1-win-over-pelicans/ Chris Paul’s big night lifts Suns to Game 1 victory over Pelicans