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Chris Paul’s 4th Quarter Takeover Held Off A Pelicans Charge As The Suns Won Game 1

The Phoenix Suns looked like a team that wanted to make a statement in the first half, as the reigning West champs and this year’s best team in the NBA smothered the Pelicans in the first half, leading by as many as 23 and taking a 19-point advantage into the halftime break.

Like their Eastern Conference 8-seed counterparts, the Pelicans looked gassed in the first half having come out of the play-in from the 9-seed, as heavy legs were not helpful when dealing with the immense pressure applied on the defensive end by the Suns. The result was a 34-point first half and it looked for all the world like a blowout was imminent. However, New Orleans found its second wind in the third quarter and outscored its entire first half total with 37 points to pull to within eight of Phoenix, as the Pelicans pounded the offensive glass to get second chance opportunities and turned into the aggressors after struggling with the Suns physicality and pace early on.

However, as has been the case all season, the fourth quarter was the Suns time to shine, and Chris Paul absolutely took the game over, scoring 17 of the Suns first 20 points of the quarter, dominating in every possible facet to push the Suns back in front by as many as 16 after New Orleans cut the lead to six.

It was a vintage Paul performance, and despite the best efforts of CJ McCollum to answer with some big buckets of his own, New Orleans just didn’t have the horsepower to close the gap again on a Suns team that remains undefeated when leading after three quarters. Paul finished the game with 30 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, singlehandedly stopping New Orleans’ second half run. Deandre Ayton was big, particularly in the first half, with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Devin Booker had 25 points and eight rebounds also doing much of his damage in the Suns dominant start.

The Pelicans deserve credit for their fight down the stretch, as it would’ve been easy to fold at halftime, as McCollum led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, while Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas each chipped in 18. There will be some positive takeaways for New Orleans from that second half run, particularly as they had some success playing small-ball, but the fourth quarter showed why they have such an uphill battle in knocking off this Suns team, as Phoenix simply is a monster in the final period because of how well they execute thanks to the steady hand of the Point God.

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