The Phoenix Suns got great news ahead of Game 6, as Devin Booker was cleared to return after hurting his hamstring in Game 2. Booker looked decently healthy on the court, as he contributed 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes of play.
The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t look too bothered about the return of the Suns’ star, though, as they raced off to a 58-48 halftime lead against the league’s best team in the regular season. They put in a gritty performance with seven of their players scoring in double-digits. The charge was led by Brandon Ingram, who finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds and 11 assists. Ingram did a lot to improve his stock in this series, and deserves a lot of credit for never giving up.
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, their old tormentor and former player, Chris Paul, found a way to turn it on against them yet again. Paul scored 10 points and had three assists in a pivotal fourth quarter that saw the Suns complete a gritty comeback on the way to a 115-109 lead.
What makes Paul’s performance memorable is his perfect performance from the field. He finished as the game’s top scorer with 33 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and a steal. While he had what feels like an uncharacteristic performance with three turnovers, he more than made up for it by making all 14 of his field goal attempts.
The mix of Paul attacking and a couple of ill-timed scoring droughts for the Pelicans allowed the Suns to take control of the game in the fourth quarter. The Point God didn’t do it alone, of course, as Mikal Bridges showed why he was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year in clutch time.
DeAndre Ayton also continues to play his way to a max contract, as he finished 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. He made good on his promise a few days ago as well, where he candidly admitted that the Suns needed to fight as hard as the Pelicans to win the series.
The Pelicans will undoubtedly feel like they let this game away. After taking care of the ball well in the first half, New Orleans had 12 of their 17 turnovers in the fourth quarter, which helped Phoenix regain some momentum. They were also forced to play one on one on offense by the Suns near the end of the game, and that’s not what you want to do against one of the league’s best defensive teams.
It’s also not a high-stakes game without Paul getting away with an apparent dirty play. Late in the game, with the Pelicans only down four points, Jose Alvarado somehow got called for a foul after Paul elbowed him in the face. An exasperated Alvarado pleaded his case to the referees, showing them the bloody lip that he received, but there was no review. That seemed strange, considering the previous incident in the series where a review was called after Jae Crowder protested a Jaxson Hayes foul.
The Pelicans have to keep their heads up, even in defeat. They showed through their play-in run, and by taking the league’s best team to six games, that they have the potential for a bright future. Ingram has clearly defined himself as a rising star and a team leader, while CJ McCollum proved that he doesn’t have to live in Damian Lillard’s shadow to succeed. I don’t normally agree with anything Stephen A. Smith says, but he was right on the ball with his comments after the end of Game 6.
Now I’m just hoping that both the Suns and Warriors stay healthy, because I really, really, really, really, really, really, really (did I say it enough times yet?) want to watch a Phoenix vs. Golden State matchup in the Conference Finals.