Devin Booker looked like he was going to help the Phoenix Suns grab another victory with a huge first half, as he had 31 points at halftime and shot 12 of 18 from the field and 7 of 10 from beyond the arc. He became the only player in the last 25 seasons to have at least 30 points in a half without taking a free throw.
Unfortunately for the Suns, Booker hurt himself in the third quarter while attempting a block. With their lead scorer out, the Suns began to falter and the Pelicans took advantage and outscored their opponents 34-22 to take a 90-83 lead into the fourth quarter. Booker came back to the bench before the start of the final period, but it was officially announced that he wouldn’t return to the game due to right hamstring tightness.
The Suns wasted no time fighting back, though, cutting the lead to 92-90 within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. They even retook the lead at 96-95 with a 13-5 run with 8:22 left in the game. They couldn’t hold on to that lead, though, as the Pelicans got hot and kept hitting three-pointers.
The Suns were still within reach with 3:17 left in the game, as they were only behind 115-108. However, they weren’t able to get any stops, finding themselves falling asleep at the wheel on defense a number of times. They were uncharacteristically sloppy on both ends of floor in clutch time, which stopped them from regaining any momentum.
Brandon Ingram finished the game with 37 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, a steal, and a block. He played a big part in the Pelicans’ third quarter rally as he contributed 14 points in the period and was their closer in the fourth quarter.
CJ McCollum had 23 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists to help Ingram. Jonas Valanciunas finished with a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds to round things off.
The tightly-contested affair saw 20 lead changes and eight ties, with New Orleans showing that they would be no pushovers, while the Suns proved that they are still a dangerous team even with Booker on the bench. Chris Paul again showed how good he is at taking care of the basketball with 17 points and 14 assists with no turnovers, but it wasn’t good enough in the 125-114 defeat.
The Suns, who were the NBA’s best team in the regular season, now face an uncertain future after losing the homecourt advantage and their best scorer. We’ll have to see how Booker recovers, as there are still plenty of games to play, but the road to the quarterfinals is no longer a straight one. Considering that he was still the Suns’ top scorer at the end of the game, it’s clear that they need him to come back strong.