The playoffs are underway and the daily preview takes it to the rim with NBA tips for Game 5 of a rollercoaster series between the Suns and Pelicans.
12:00 (AEST), Wed 28th Apr @ Footprint Center, Phoenix
History: Played 72: Suns 38 V Pelicans 34
Last meeting: April 25, 2022: Pelicans 118 d Suns 103 at Smoothie King Center
Final Thoughts: The top-seeded Phoenix Suns are having more trouble than expected with New Orleans Pelicans in the First Round – and offensive spearhead Devin Booker remains sidelined as the teams head back to Arizona for a pivotal Game 5 with the series locked 2-all.
Honours shared in Phoenix
The Suns overcame the Pelicans 110-99 in the series opener after a fast start. Star trio Chris Paul (30 pts, 7 reb, 10 ast, 3 stl), Booker (25 pts, 8 ast) and Deandre Ayton (21 pts, 9 reb) commenced their second playoffs campaign together in blistering style. CJ McCollum (25 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast) top-scored for the Pels, while big man Jonas Valunciunas (18 pts, 25 reb) was a monster on the boards.
But the Pelicans levelled with a stunning 125-114 Game 2 result in Phoenix. The Suns led by five at halftime but Booker – who put up 31 points in 24 minutes, including seven threes – exited in the third quarter and the game swung. Brandon Ingram (37 pts, 11 reb, 9 ast) took over, with McCollum (23 pts, 8 reb, 9 ast) again productive.
Level again after New Orleans visit
The Suns wrested back the advantage with a 114-110 Game 3 victory in New Orleans. Paul (28 pts, 14 ast) and Ayton (28 pts, 17 reb) picked up the scoring slack – as well as performing at their usual high standards dishing up dimes and dominating the boards, respectively. Paul scored 19 of his points in a seesawing fourth quarter. Mikal Bridges chipped in with 17 points and JaVale McGee had 15 poitns off the bench. The Suns held on despite shooting an abysmal 4-of-26 from three-point range. Ingram (34 pts, 7 reb) and McCollum (30 pts, 7 ast) were again superb for the Pels but lacked support.
But the Pelicans squared up again in Game 4 with a 118-103 victory. The Suns led at halftime before being overrun. Ingram (30 pts, 5 ast) continued his hot run of form, while Valunciunas (26 pts, 15 reb, 4 ast) won his big man duel with the influential Ayton (23 pts, 8 pts) – who was the only Suns played to manage more than 14 points.
Phoenix’s outside shooting was again ice-cold (7-of-27 3PM) – though New Orleans’ was just as bad (6-of-24 3PM).
The Pelicans’ modest regular season – going 36-46 to finish ninth – is irrelevant now. They are a rapidly improving, well-balanced outfit playing with confidence. Booker’s absence has rocked the Suns. Chris Paul knows it’s up to him to navigate the championship favourites through these choppy waters and they will be keyed up at home, but they’re giving away too many points at the line to get behind.
Best Bet: Handicap – Pelicans +6.5 @ $1.93
Same Game Multi: Margin – Suns 1-10; Total – Over 214.5; Brandon Ingram Points – Over 27.5; Chris Paul Assists – Over 12.5 @ $16.30