Direction Louisiana for the continuation of this series between New Orleans and Phoenix. All without Devin Booker, hit in the hamstrings and who remains uncertain for this entire first round. However, even without its All-Star rear, it was the best team in the league that came to win (114-111) on the Pelicans’ floor.
A victory synonymous with home advantage recovered for the Suns, carried almost all evening by Deandre Ayton (28 points, 17 rebounds), before Chris Paul (28 points, 14 assists) decided, as in Game 1, to make her speak killer instinct in the fourth quarter: 19 points!
Jostled and diminished, Monty Williams’ men therefore put their heads back in place from Game 3, taking control (2-1) of this series, and here they are putting pressure on Brandon Ingram’s teammates ( 34 points, 7 rebounds) and CJ McCollum (30 points, 7 assists), ahead of Game 4.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
— Without Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton took over. In the absence of the All-Star rear, the leader and the Suns pivot were expected to say the least: they did not fail to respond, with a double-double each. Author of his record for points in the playoffs, Deandre Ayton set an example as an anchor inside for three quarters, with his touch and his finish near the circle, on caviar from Maestro Paul. “CP3”, precisely, was responsible for killing the Pelicans in the last act, with his usual mastery in the money time, especially at mid-distance. Team work.
— Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum have tried everything. It’s hard to blame the Ingram / McCollum pair much, who clearly did their best to give the Pelicans the advantage in this first round. Nevertheless, often lonely and weighed down by the non-match of Jonas Valanciunas, she had to lay down her arms in front of the Suns, not without struggling until the last moments. Impressive collective mastery in hot moments, the Phoenix players nevertheless managed to calm the ardor of the opposing tandem, who imagined playing a nasty trick on the visitors. Like in Game 2…
— The expulsion of Jaxson Hayes. It was in the middle of the second quarter that the pivot of the Pelicans was guilty of a gesture as stupid as it was dangerous on Jae Crowder. In the fight for the rebound with the Suns winger, after being dunked on by Landry Shamet, he simply allowed himself to embed his opponent, immediately thrown to the ground. Unsurprisingly, he therefore inherited a level II flagrant foul, well deserved and synonymous with exclusion. Leaving his team with no real circle protector and even fewer solutions inside, to try to slow Deandre Ayton down…
✅ Mastery of Phoenix. It was anything but easy for the Suns tonight. But, with experience, the best team in the league has honored its status, snatching this success with forceps. In the wake of a Chris Paul always so surgical when it comes to managing a tense end to the meeting, Phoenix has constantly been able to make the right decision under pressure. Inexpensive (6 ball losses), able to overcome their awkwardness at 3-pts (4/26), by pressing rather in the paint (64 points, against 40 in front) and well placed in the offensive rebound, the men of Monty Williams prove there that they are at their zenith, collectively.
✅ JaVale McGee. Like Deandre Ayton, the pivot replacing the Suns also had no trouble dominating the interior sector of the Pelicans. He thus finished with 15 points in 12 minutes, 7/8 to shoot. Always bursting with energy and efficient over a short playing time, he therefore continues to demonstrate, night after night (or almost), that he is the element that Monty Williams’ men lacked when coming off the bench, the year passed, in relay of Ayton.
✅ Devonte Graham. If the bench of the Pelicans has, as a whole, not really shone today, the leader had the merit of getting there individually. Transparent since the start of this series, he finally played the sparks off the bench for the Pelicans, in short sequences: 12 points and 5 rebounds, 3/6 to 3-pts, in 13 minutes. A valuable contribution, like that (shorter) of Jose Alvarado in the fourth quarter, in support of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. But this contribution ultimately turns out to be insufficient…
⛔ The Valanciunas-Nance Jr duo. If the Suns have dominated so much in the racket, it is largely because of the failed performances of Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr. at pivot position. Constantly fined in defense by Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, the two interiors of the Pelicans also brought nothing in attack: 6 points (at 1/5 on shots and with 11 rebounds) for Valanciunas; 2 points (at 1/8 on shots, including 0/4 at 3-pts, and with 4 rebounds) for Nance Jr. Just calamitous, from start to finish.
⛔ Landry Shamet. More empowered by his coach, to fill the absence of Devin Booker, he failed to influence this meeting. Very clumsy (2/7 on shots, including 0/5 at 3-pts…), not very influential in scoring (5 points) and dominated in turn in defense by CJ McCollum and Devonte ‘Graham, even Brandon Ingram, the Suns rear has a hole in his 30 minutes of playing time. Minutes collected thanks to the threat he still represents behind the arc. On the other hand, he will at least have managed to sign one of the actions of the evening: a terrible poster-dunk on Jaxson Hayes, in transition, before half-time!
Game 4 in the night from Sunday to Monday (03:30 am), still in New Orleans.