The Phoenix Suns went into Game 3 looking to take home court advantage back, and they knew they’d have to work hard to win in a hostile building without their best player in Devin Booker. However, they went into the contest with the confidence of knowing that they had managed to weather the storm for long stretches without Booker or Chris Paul in the regular season.
In the first half, the Suns’ answer was Deandre Ayton, who had 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting and made yet another three-pointer by halftime.
The Pelicans offense lost their way in the last six minutes or so of second quarter, which allowed Phoenix to turn a 39-34 Pelicans lead into their own 59-48 advantage at halftime.
However, New Orleans were far more aggressive in the second half and went on a 12-0 run after the Suns had built a 13-point lead, and retook the lead briefly with 3:33 left in the third quarter. By the time the quarter ended, the Suns were only up 81-79.
The fourth quarter was a tight fight, with both teams trading baskets and small leads. The game was tied at 90-90 with 6:32 left in the game. However, the difference was Chris Paul, who again exploded in the fourth quarter like he did in Game 1.
He went into full Point God mode, and scored or assisted in 21 of the 33 points that the Suns scored in the final period. Whenever they needed a bucket, Paul was ready to oblige. After Herbert Jones made it a 91-90 lead, Paul went on a personal 8-0 run that gave the Suns the lead for good.
Paul finished the game with 28 points and 14 assists without turning it over again. He was the reason that the Suns walked away with the 114-111 victory.
Ayton finished the game with 28 points, 17 rebounds and three steals. JaVale McGee put in a solid effort from the bench when Ayton sat, shooting 7 of 8 on the way to 15 points.
Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum combined for 25 first half points but took 22 shots to do it. However, they got it going in the second, half though. Ingram finished with 34 points and seven rebounds while McCollum had 30 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Jonas Valanciunas had a rough night, going 1 of 5 over all while finishing with six points and 11 rebounds.
The Pelicans just got reminded about how deadly the Suns still are without Booker. They fought hard and kept it close until the end, but they’re now looking at a must-win Game 4 because a 3-1 deficit is going to be near-impossible to come back from against the league’s best team.
Jaxson Hayes ejected for flagrant 2 in second Q in a questionable decision. There was no initial foul called but the reaction from Jae Crowder convinced the referees to review the play. I personally thought it was a bad shove and frustration foul, but I don’t see how that could have possible been a flagrant two. It’s the playoffs, man. Let them play.