Pelicans Make A Statement In Game 2 vs Suns

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Updated: April 22, 2022
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The Pelicans seem unaware of the reality that fits the outcome that most fans have predicted for this series. They’re playing in the first round against the best team in the West, a team in the Suns that features the point god in Chris Paul, and an MVP caliber player in Booker who continues to prove why he deserves to be considered one of the best. The Pelicans are not supposed to win this series, but their rebellion against what many consider will be the most likely outcome in the series is a testament to their competitive spirit as a team. They’re competing at a high level as a unit and are out there to prove that they are worthy of the recognition and success they ultimately desire.

Brandon Ingram continues to perform at an elite level for the Pelicans, finishing the game with 37 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assists. His scoring, playmaking, and poise under pressure led the Pelicans to victory, tying the series against the Suns at 1-1. What truly hampered the Suns was the loss of their elite performer Devin Booker to hamstring tightness in the 3rd quarter. Through two-quarters, Booker dominated the game with 31 points in the first half alone. However, in the third quarter, Booker went back to the locker room with an apparent hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the 2nd half.

Devin Booker got off to a hot start in the first quarter, he was out there cooking, making Kobe-esque shots with defenders all over him. It seems like he made it a point to play with the level of focus and effort that would be a representation of how the Suns need to compete on every possession. He had 16 points in the first quarter, with 4 three-pointers made. He capped off the 1st by making a tough, but beautiful fadeaway jumper from the baseline against two defenders. Throughout the first quarter, the Pelicans responded with efficient play and execution on both ends of the floor.

Brandon Ingram specifically looked dynamic, creating for himself and his teammates. He’s improved as a playmaker and facilitator this season, and it showed. On numerous occasions, Ingram used his aggressiveness and skills to draw the attention of multiple defenders in order to make passes that led his teammates to be put in a position to efficiently score or create for others. Ingram got off to a great start in the first, setting the table by having 11 points and 5 assists. Chris Paul continued to show leadership and efficient control of pace and flow. The point god looked like an extension of the coach on the floor, by maximizing the play-calling, screening, cutting, and ball movement scheming that helped the Suns’ offense run like a well-oiled machine all season.

The second quarter turned out to be one of the most entertaining quarters of the game, with both teams finding ways to respond to each other in ways that stifled momentum or prevented the other from completely taking control of the game. It turned into a back and forth affair, in which early on the bench contributions from both teams became essential developments that showcased how close the game would be going forward. Larry Nance brought the energy on both ends, rebounding with tenacity, making tough shots around the rim, and shooting threes with great touch.

Javelle set great screens to free up teammates and ran the floor with motivation, cutting to areas on the floor that made him a strong threat to finish everything thrown to him. CJ McCollum and Chris Paul remained on the floor, playing with the second units to provide leadership, presence, balance, and dynamic scoring when needed. The true show continued to go on when Booker returned to the game and continued where he had left off. He continued to take over and create momentum for the Suns that gave them control of the game. He scored 15 points in the second quarter, scoring 11 straight points during a stretch, and ended the quarter with a long three from close to half court. Booker was Ballin, in ways that would make the Black Mamba proud.

Going into the third quarter, you can feel the sense of urgency coming from both teams as each team placed more value on possessions and looked to slow the game down as a way to maximize each possession. The best players started to place even more emphasis on controlling and imposing their will on the game to dictate the outcome. Brandon Ingram’s impact was felt through the second half despite spraining his ankle in the third. Playing through the pain, he used willpower to find ways to greatly contribute to his team. He embraced the challenge of being the star player who had to do whatever was needed to help his team win. The Pelicans put the ball in his hands, and he went to work, scoring 14 points in the 3rd, taking over the game, leading the Pelicans, setting the tone on defense, and maximizing the effectiveness of his teammates on the floor with his feel. The offense was being run through him, he was having a great impact, and because of his outstanding play, momentum was shifting in the Pelicans favor.

The fourth quarter started with an interview with the Suns’ Head coach, who acknowledged that Devin Booker would not be returning because of a hamstring issue. The reporter asked Monty Williams, “How will you overcome?”, and he responded by saying “Perseverance, mental stamina, and who we are”. The Suns’ role players started the fourth quarter being a reflection of their coach’s leadership and embraced the need to step up in the absence of Devin Booker, by scoring 3 consecutive possessions to start the fourth. Landry made a 3, Mikal Bridges scored off a great give-and-go play between him and Ayton, and Cam Johnson made a highly contested fadeaway jumper inside the paint.

The Suns had a next-man-up mentality, which is the mark of a great team. Their response to adversity was to continue to believe in each other and play hard for each other. This fourth turned into a battle of execution and effort. Whoever wanted it more, has the greatest impact on each possession, and wins the most possessions is going to win the game. It was a close game and with 7 minutes and 28 seconds still left in the 4th quarter, there had already been 20 lead changes.

The Pelicans’ response to the Suns’ great play in the fourth was to use a great collective effort to pull away. Pelicans started to protect their lead with 5:28 left in the quarter. Ingram got a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up the floor, drove hard to the rim, drew two defenders, and passed to Alvarado, who hit the wide-open left corner 3 to give the Pelicans a 105 -99 lead. Consecutive possessions that involve McCollum snaking a screen to make a tough layup under pressure and making a highly contested 3 from the top of the key contributed to the lead being extended out to 110 -103. The Suns responded on multiple occasions, diligently fighting back led by their floor general Chris Paul, who made tough shots, great decisions, and big plays that kept the Suns in the game. But two crucial moments that sealed the game occurred in the fourth. Ingram isolated at the top of the key and made a highly contested pull-up three against Crowder. The great team defensive pressure by the Pelicans forced Crowder to throw the ball away while trying to make a pass to Chris Paul with 1:24 left in the quarter. The Suns were forced to foul late in the game to try to extend the game but it was too late.

It was a great team win by the Pelicans. They’re shocking everyone with their elite play as a team. Their late-season acquisition of CJ McCollum is proving to be the key move that saved their season. Controversy and uncertainty involving Zion not playing this season presumingly turned this season into a lost season for them. But they have responded by coming together as a team, with the dedication of challenging themselves to play the best they can regardless of negative circumstances that may create limitations going forward. They chose to compete and play with pride, and it’s great to see because their unwavering efforts are turning this first-round series against the Suns into one of the best series in the first round of the playoffs.

 

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