The Phoenix Suns conquered the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night, leaving the Smoothie King Center with a 123-110 victory. Following the victory, the Suns return to The Valley for a nationally televised game with the Clippers on Thursday.
Phoenix caught fire during the first 24 minutes of the game, with Devin Booker, Jalen Smith, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson all scoring in double digits in the first two quarters. The Suns combined their offensive offense with a stellar team defense (32% FG for the Pelicans) to build a 64-54 halftime lead. Despite statistical dominance, New Orleans refused to stop, with Jonas Valančiūnas, Josh Hart and Devonte ‘Graham headlining opponents’ efforts.
In the second half, the Suns put the ball in the hands of their wings while the Pelicans continued to feed Valančiūnas. After taking an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, New Orleans reduced the deficit to two before the Suns finished strong. Bismack Biyombo was a force in the final stanza and finished the night with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals and blocks apiece.
Phoenix shot 54.1% from the field and a scorching 54.8% from three, while the Pelicans shot 40.4% and 30.3% respectively. These numbers were partially offset by the 32 New Orleans charity strip attempts. The Pelicans won the rebound battle (48-42), but the Suns’ ball movement (32 assists against just 10 turnovers) proved essential to the victory. Devin Booker finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Chris Paul contributed 11 points and 15 dimes. More information on Mikal and Cam’s performances below.
For the Pelicans, Jonas Valančiūnas finished with 25 and 16 points, while Graham de Devonte had 28 points and six assists. Josh Hart scored 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a well-balanced effort.
Stix kicks us out of the door! A three on the first possession, followed by a bucket on the next. A bucket of Book followed by three Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges only extends the lead. As easy as the Suns’ offense may seem right now, the opposite can be said for the Pelicans. Cam Johnson throws a hammer at Jonas Valančiūnas, and the Suns are officially on fire to start this one. Willie Green calls for a time out, Phoenix leads 16-5 with 9:13 left in the first quarter.
Outside the time-out, the two offenses are launched. Book and Stix do the damage for the Suns, while it’s Jonas and Josh Hart for the Pelicans. As Phoenix begins to roll out his bench, the extent of his roster changes is evident. Cam Payne is flanked by a group of guys who weren’t with the team at Christmas.
Despite the absences, the young wings of the Suns are gaining momentum. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson alternate quality offensive looks with stellar defense. Despite a few punches from Jaxson Hayes off the bench, Phoenix is still ahead 35-24 with 2:08 left in the quarter.
Book finished first with a bucket and a pair of free throws, but four free throws and a steal in Jose Alvarado’s final four seconds clawed back those points for the Pels.
At the end of one, Suns up 42-31. Book has 13 points, five boards and four assists for Phoenix, while Stix has 10. For New Orleans, Valančiūnas has six points and three rebounds.
Three minutes into the second quarter, and the Pelicans fought to make it a four-point game. To make matters worse, it looks like Stix was punched in the face by JV (although it didn’t seem intentional). He goes to the locker room.
It looks like the bullet to Jalen’s face may have provided the Suns bench with a bullet in the arm. With CP3 leading the traffic and Mikal and Cam continuing to score, the Suns’ lead climbed to 16 with 3:34 remaining in the quarter.
Phoenix dominates this match, but the aggressiveness of the Pelicans in attack prevents it from turning into a blowout. New Orleans is coming to the finish line at an alarming rate, and if not, it could be a 30-point game.
JV is a load down. It’s a story Suns fans have seen before. Despite strong scoring efforts from him and Josh Hart early on (as well as nine from Devonte ‘Graham), Brandon Ingram’s struggles are really hurting New Orleans.
Phoenix is heading into the break shooting 55% from the field and up 64-54. Book has 17 points, while Mikal added 12 and Cam added 11.
The Pelicans are only shooting 32 percent from the field, but their 23 free-throw attempts keep them within earshot. Valanciunas leads them by scoring with 13, while Josh Hart fills in the stat sheet (11 points, six rebounds and three assists).
Stix is back! Good to see after the shot in the face in the first half.
JV, Hart and Graham are still here for New Orleans, but so are Book, Mikal and Stix.
Panic levels are at 3 in 10 right now as the Pelicans refuse to stop. New Orleans straddles the size and skill of JV on this mini-race, and he turns 19 and 10 on the night. Unfortunately for the Suns, Book and Stix have just committed their fourth fouls in quick succession. With 7:19 to go in the third, Phoenix leads 74-69.
CP3 doing things CP3, along with more shots from Mikal and Cam helped the Suns extend their lead to 86-73 with 4:15 left in the quarter. The Pelicans continue to look to JV and Graham for their buckets, and while they may not have the firepower to keep up with the Suns, it’s not for lack of trying. Graham is 16 points on the night.
Seems like an awkward fit, but Cam Payne and Elfrid Payton try to make their unlikely background association work. Plus, since Bismack Biyombo is fouled up, it’s worth yelling at the newly signed big. Jonas might be giving the Suns all kinds of trouble, but Bismack provided some quality changes tonight with Stix struggling. He’s got eight points, three rebounds, a block and a steal, and the Suns are +3 in 18 minutes tonight.
The quarter ends (shockingly) with the Pelicans making a series of trips to the line. Despite that, the Suns bench crowd played well enough to hold onto a double-digit lead over Phoenix. Good guys up to 95-84 after three.
The Suns couldn’t buy a bucket to start the fourth, and Brandon Ingram was finally able to cook. Halfway through the final quarter, New Orleans had reduced the Suns’ lead to two thanks to Graham and Ingram de Devonte.
Chris Paul-Bismack Biyombo’s chemistry is REAL! CP3 found Bismack for buckets on back-to-back possessions, which was followed by a follow-up and a foul from Biyombo (he converted one in two), which was followed by a massive rejection from Bismack!
Just like he has done so many times before, Book hits a freezing three to reduce the lead to eight. It’s at 29 overnight, and the Suns are at 109-101 with 4:17 left.
Bismack Biyombo is the greatest player in NBA history. A massive jam and one makes it a double-digit game.
A Devonte ‘Graham three is sandwiched by huge treys of (again) Mikal and Cam. Bridges and Johnson is the law firm where opponents’ races go to die. Rising Sun 122-106 with 1:28 on the left.
Game player (s)
This honor goes to two of the Suns’ most overlooked stallions, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Devin Booker was excellent, but his greatness is expected (he was the BEST player on the pitch tonight). Given the challenges Phoenix has faced since Christmas, the rise of players outside of Book and CP3 is critical to continued success. Whenever the Pelicans went for a run tonight, Mikal or Cam was there to refresh them. Their performance was exactly the kind of boost a team in crisis needs. Bridges finished with 23 points on 9-13 shots and assisted Brandon Ingram with just 5-18 shots, while Johnson provided 18 points (on five treys) and six rebounds, and finished at +35 on the evening.
The Suns host the Clippers on Thursday, almost certainly seeking revenge. The game is scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. AZ time and will air on TNT.