Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton help the Suns without Booker beat Pelicans 114-111

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Chris Paul arrived in style when the Alone Fenice she needed him more.

Paul scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns overcame Devin Booker’s absence by beating the Pelicans of New Orleans 114-111 Friday night in game 3 of the first round series.


Deandre Ayton added 28 points and 17 rebounds to help seeded Suns take a 2-1 lead in the series. Paul scored 15 of Phoenix’s first 23 points in the last quarter. He also had 14 assists.

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA first-round basketball playoff series in New Orleans on Friday, April 22, 2022.
(AP Photo / Michael DeMocker)

“He’s just one of those players who plays right,” said Suns manager Monty Williams. “He understands the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ to create for himself and others. The leadership qualities you guys don’t see in timeouts are as impressive as what he does on the pitch.”

In the first three quarters, Paul played his distinctive role as a facilitator. He had 12 assists and had only taken eight shots, making only three.

After New Orleans took its final lead, 93-92, with 5:37 left of Jose Alvarado’s rotating layup, Paul connected on three consecutive mid-range jumpers – 14, 12, and 15 feet – while Phoenix took over, 98-93. Paul hit another lane jumper and made four free throws in the last 1:32 to freeze the game.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Paul, citing Booker’s absence. “We knew it was going to be a committee. When you walked into this arena, we knew it was going to be tough, but everyone showed up tonight.”

JaVale McGee, whose 7 out of 8 shot was facilitated by Paul’s passing mastery, said he continues to be amazed by the 36-year-old point guard.

“It’s amazing just to see the focus, the focus and just the brain he has and the vision he has,” said McGee. “He reads a game and the defense will change, and he always analyzes. He listens to the calls that other players call.”

Booker strained his right hamstring on Tuesday night after scoring 31 points in the first half in a 125-114 home defeat. He sat on the bench during Game 3.

Mikal Bridges had 17 points for the Suns. Back-up center JaVale McGee scored 15 out of 7 out of 8 when the Suns injured the Pelicans on the inside.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 34 points. CJ McCollum was 30.

“They attacked the open areas and got a good look, especially for Ayton,” Ingram said. “At the start of the match, CP did a good job getting to his places.”

Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.

“It’s a long streak,” said New Orleans manager Willie Green. “We just have to keep staying with it, keep wearing them down. We can’t turn the ball. We have to make sure we get back into transition.”

Jose Alvarado kept the Pelicans in fourth place with seven straight points, but Paul responded with five straight points and an assist to equalize with 90 with 6:32 left. Paul then scored eight consecutive points for a 98-93 lead.

The Suns took their biggest lead, 66-53, early in the third quarter, but New Orleans used a 12-0 run in the ensuing 2:43 to bring it up to 66-63. McCollum was the catalyst with a triple and a layup, and New Orleans fired at 81-79 to enter the fourth quarter on the strength of a 31-22 run in the third period.

McCollum’s 16-foot jumper with 5:13 left in the first half equalized at 43, but while the ball was in the air, Pelicans forward Jaxson Hayes hit Jae Crowder, who was standing on the baseline near the basket. Hayes’ shoulder-to-chest foul was revised and earned him a flagrant 2 foul and a red card.

That twist triggered a 16-5 Phoenix run to close the time, and the Suns led 59-48 at half-time.

Ayton, who was held back by just 10 points in a Game 2 defeat to New Orleans, scored 21 points out of 10 of 14 in the time, with four of his baskets coming from Paul’s feed.



Suns: Manager Monty Williams said he was thrilled that the Suns held the Pelicans to just one offensive rebound in the second half. … Ayton and McGee joined in 20 of 28 rounds. … Paul had no turnovers in 40 minutes.

Pellicani: Reserve PG Devonte Graham, who fought in attack, scored 11 first points, including three 3-point points. … Green said he can sense a growing momentum among Pelicans fans in what is normally considered a football city. “We are grateful and grateful for our fans and for the support we have received,” he said. “We are trying to come up with a team that represents the city well, and I think we are moving in the right direction, and I think people can feel that.”