Suns vs. Pelicans score, takeaways: Phoenix dominates Game 5 to take 3-2 series lead

The Phoenix Suns are one win away from a berth in the Western Conference semifinals. They made things look relatively easy on Tuesday night with a 112-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 5 of their first-round series. The action will now shift back to New Orleans for Game 6 on Thursday.

Chris Paul, who had an uncharacteristically poor performance in Game 4, bounced back with a classic playoff performance. He set the tone early to help the Suns jump out to a double-digit lead after the first quarter, and finished with 22 points and 11 assists. Mikal Bridges also had a big night, stepping up in Devin Booker’s absence to score a game-high 31 points in his best outing of the series.

The Pelicans hung around and cut the deficit to single digits a few times in the fourth quarter, but could never quite mount a serious comeback attempt. Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum both had rough shooting nights, combining 43 points on 14 of 41 from the field.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

CP3 sets the tone

Chris Paul submitted one of the worst playoff performances of his career in the Suns’ Game 4 loss, finishing with four points and three turnovers. There were few guarantees as the series shifted back to Phoenix for a pivotal Game 5, but one of them was Paul bouncing back.

That’s just what he did. Right from the opening possession — a nifty bounce pass to Deandre Ayton for a bucket — Paul set the tone. He came out aggressive, looking for his own offense just as much as he was setting things up for others. By the end of the first quarter he already had eight points and three assists, and the Suns had a double-digit lead.

At halftime, a doubled-over Paul seemed notably tired, but still had enough left in the tank to put the Suns on his back down the stretch. After the Pelicans had cut the deficit to eight in the middle of the fourth quarter, Paul either scored or assisted on eight of nine Suns points to push the lead back to double digits with just over three minutes left, and effectively end the game.

I have finished the night with 22 points, 11 assists, three steals and just one turnover. In the process he recorded his 31st career playoff game with at least 20 points and 10 assists, which is the third most all time behind only LeBron James and Magic Johnson.

bridge steps up

The main storyline for most of this series has been Devin Booker’s absence. While the Pelicans deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve fought and extended this matchup to at least six games, almost everyone is in agreement that it would be over by now if Booker was healthy. But he’s not, and that’s how the playoffs go sometimes.

While no one can be expected to replicate all of Booker’s production on their own, the Suns do need everyone else to step up if they want to advance. That can be difficult on a team that is so system oriented; everyone knows their role and fills it so well that it can be hard to adjust and start doing more all of a sudden.

In Game 5, though, the supporting cast did its part. Cameron Payne led a 23-point night for the bench, while Mikal Bridges played by far his best game of the series. Bridges was all over the place on both sides of the ball, finishing with a playoff career-high 31 points, five rebounds, two assists and four blocks in 47 minutes. He went 4 of 4 from 3-point land, blocked numerous jumpers and threw down two huge exclamation point dunks in the final minute.

This was a big-time effort from Bridges, and the Suns are going to need more of that while Booker remains sidelined.

Can Pels get up off the mat one more time?

This Pelicans season has been all about resilience. Zion Williamson broke his foot and has not played a single game this season; they started out 1-12; they trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter of their second play-in game. By any measure they should not have even made the playoffs, but all along they just kept fighting.

There was a great clip from that second play-in game against the Los Angeles Clippers, where head coach Willie Green implored his team to keep going. “This is what we live for, this is what we worked hard for,” Green said. “We ain’t giving it up. We are not freaking giving this up. You gotta freaking fight. You gotta fight.”

That’s the mindset and toughness they’ve had all season long. Now, they’ll have to summon it at least one more time as they head home for a must-win Game 6. They’ve already won two elimination games this month, but this one will be the toughest challenge yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *