Chris Paul has perfect game, Suns advance with win over Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS (3TV/CBS 5) — The Point God was perfect from the floor in the best shooting night in NBA playoff history and the Phoenix Suns advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a Game 6 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, 115-109. Chris Paul was 14-14 from the floor with 33 points. Deandre Ayton was nearly perfect as well, going 10-12 for 22 points and seven boards.
Paul had the most field goals without a miss in a playoff game, hit all four of his free throws and had eight assists as the top-seeded Suns overcame a 10-point halftime deficit. Phoenix will face Dallas in the second round.
With two minutes left in the game, Brandon Ingram hit a reverse layup to give the Pelicans a 104-103 lead. After struggling most of the night, Devin Booker responded with a huge three-pointer. Mikal Bridges then stole the ball and dunked it to give the Suns a 108-104 lead. After a couple of Paul free throws, Larry Nance Jr. made a driving layup. Then with 28.7 seconds left, Paul made a 13-foot pullup jumper.
Paul gave the Suns the boost they need in the third quarter, scoring 13 points on 6-6 shooting. He also moved to sixth on the NBA’s all-time playoffs assist list, passing Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans also ran into some foul trouble, with C.J. McCollum picking up his fifth halfway through the quarter and staunch defender Herbert Jones picking up his fourth. Paul hit a 15-footer with 6:09 left to give the Suns their first lead since seven minutes left in the second. Their lead reached 77-73 but the Pelicans bounced back and the quarter ended with a score of 85-82, Pelicans.
Heading into the game, the Pelicans outscored the Suns by 46 points in the quarter during the first five games. But the Suns got the edge this time, outscoring the Pelicans 34-27.
The Suns had a rough start to the second quarter, going 0 for 5 from the field before a Paul jump three minutes in. Neither team got much breathing room until the Pelicans went on a 13-2 run. Larry Nance Jr. helped in a big way with a few hustle plays and hitting the glass. The Suns had three straight turnovers. Bridges finally put an end to the bleeding with a layup with 2:20 left. Pelicans ended the half with a 58-48 lead. Nance ended up with six offensive rebounds in the half. Pelicans had a 36-8 edge in points in the paint after two quarters. They also had 14 second-chance points, compared to the Suns’ zero.
The first quarter was a see-saw battle with the Suns getting out to an 11-4 lead but the Pelicans kept it close. Ayton was a perfect 4-4 from the field and had 10 points to lead the Suns. Cameron Johnson had five points off the bench. With 1:44 left in the quarter, C.J. McCollum body-checked Johnson as he was heading to the bucket. Refs called a type 1 flagrant foul. Trey Murphy III hit a 27-footer to tie at 28. Then, the quarter ended. Bridges played all 12 minutes but scored only 2 points.
There was a lot of speculation about whether Booker would play or not. After the Suns’ win in Game 5, the All-Star was seen shouting at the Pelicans’ bench, “I’m back.” A few hours before tipoff on Thursday, reports surfaced Booker would play and the team upgraded his status from “out” to “questionable.” Head coach Monty Williams told the media during a news conference Booker would indeed play.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 21 points. The game got chippy in the second quarter — there were 16 fouls called — and the Pelicans seemed to revel in the physical play, outsourcing the Suns 30-20 to take a 58-48 halftime lead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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