On Friday night, Chris Paul led the Phoenix Suns to a 114-111 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter while also recording 14 assists without making a turnover.
Deandre Ayton added 28 points and 17 rebounds to help the Suns grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff series. Phoenix won despite Devin Booker’s absence due to a right hamstring strain.
The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram had 34 points and seven rebounds, while CJ McCollum had 30 points and seven assists.
New Orleans hosts Game 4 on Sunday night.
Booker, who was hurt in Game 2 and is projected to miss the rest of the series, was replaced by Cameron Johnson. Phoenix focused on the inside game without the long-range bomber, with Ayton and JaVale McGee (15 points on 7-of-8 shooting) helping the Suns to a 64-40 advantage in points in the paint.
With 2:08 left in the game, Jae Crowder hit back-to-back baskets to give the Suns a 102-95 advantage. With 1:55 left, McCollum scored for the Pelicans, but Paul hit a floater, and Mikal Bridges hit two free throws to make it 106-97 with 49 seconds left.
New Orleans cut its deficit to 110-106 with 22.5 seconds left after Ingram scored nine points in less than 20 seconds. On the other hand, Bridges sank four straight free throws to help Phoenix hold off the surge.
Phoenix, which shot 50.6 percent from the field but only 15.4 percent from the 3-point range, got 17 points from Bridges and 10 from Crowder (4 of 26). The Suns only had six turnovers, forcing New Orleans to give up 15 points.
Devonte’ Graham and Herbert Jones scored 12 points for the Pelicans, who shot 48.1 percent overall and 11 of 32 (34.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
When New Orleans’ Jaxson Hayes slammed Crowder as McCollum’s shot slid under the net in the second quarter, the score was knotted at 43. With 5:13 left in half, the officials reviewed the action and ejected Hayes for a flagrant-2 foul and expulsion.
The Suns were energized by the incident and went on a half-court, 16-5 run to take a 59-48 lead into halftime. With 21 points in the first half, Ayton leads Phoenix.
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Early in the third quarter, New Orleans trailed by 13 points, but a jumper by Ingram with 3:33 left gave them a 74-73 lead. Phoenix led 81-79 going into the fourth quarter.