Pelicans’ rally falls short as Suns take playoff series opener, 110-99
PHOENIX, Ariz. (WVUE) - The New Orleans Pelicans showed both nervousness and resolve in their first NBA playoff game in four years. But ultimately the Phoenix Suns showed them too much Chris Paul.
Paul took over the final quarter of the teams’ Game 1 matchup Sunday night (April 17), stamping out a late Pelicans rally to lead the Suns to a 110-99 victory at Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix.
Phoenix, the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, led by as many as 23 points before the eighth-seeded Pelicans cut the deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter. That’s when Paul decided enough was enough.
The 36-year-old point guard, whose career began with six seasons for the New Orleans franchise back when they were the Hornets, scored or assisted on 23 of the Suns’ 31 points in the final period. The 19 points Paul scored marked his second-highest output for any fourth quarter in his 17-year career.
Paul turns 37 in three weeks. He finished Sunday’s game with 30 points and 10 assists, becoming the oldest player to hit those marks in the same playoff game. Steve Nash, now the coach of the Brooklyn Nets, had done so at a younger age 36 when he played for the Suns in the 2010 playoffs.
The Pelicans shot just 22 percent from the field in the first half and 38 percent for the game.
Guard C.J. McCollum led New Orleans with 25 points, but was 9 for 25 from the floor and 0 for 9 when the Suns’ Defensive Player of the Year finalist Mikal Bridges was his primary defender.
After scoring 30 points when the Pelicans eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers in last Friday’s play-in game, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was held to just 18 points and made a team-leading five turnovers. Center Jonas Valanciunas mustered 18 points and a game-high 25 rebounds, but also missed 14 of his 21 shots from the floor.
“We have some work to do,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green, a former teammate and coach of Paul. “That’s a really good team. We have to come back and be better.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tips off Tuesday from Phoenix at 9 p.m. CT.
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