Chris Paul and the Suns overpower the Pelicans to take control in the series
With classic performance from Chris Paul and an exceptional showing from Mikal Bridges, the Suns are back in business as they head to the crucial Game 6.
After the scare of Game 4 it seems like the Suns regained their composure as they took control of the series once again.
Phoenix Suns take 3-2 lead over New Orleans Pelicans
Back in the driver’s seat, the Phoenix Suns are now just win away from going to the Western Conference semifinals after cruising to a 112-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 5 of their first-round series on Tuesday night. Led by star Chris Paul who had earlier declared that he would be better for the game, the Suns took an early double-digit lead after just one quarter. Mention should also be made of Mikal Bridges, who with big shoes to fill - he stepped in for the injured Devin Booker - scored a game high 31 points on the night.
Of course the Pelicans didn’t ‘go quietly into the night,’ as they did manage to shave the lead to single digits during the fourth quarter, but in the end they never were quite able to overturn the deficit. Stars Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum both struggled on the night in fact, as they combined for 43 points between them on 14 of 41 shooting from the field.
Chris Paul returned in a huge way
After Game 4, Chris Paul must have done some soul searching. The Suns’ architect had turned in one of his worst playoff performances ever with four points and three turnovers and more over, was essentially shackled by undrafted rookie and veritable star of the night, Jose Alvarado. Heading into the critical Game 5 there must have been nerves from both fans and players alike, except for CP3. Indeed, Paul didn’t just play better on Tuesday night, he made his entire team do so as well.
From the start of the game there was a sign of things to come when he played a deft bounce pass to Deandre Ayton for a basket. The aggression that had been lacking in Game 4 was on full show, as he found his own opportunities while creating many others for his teammates. In just the first quarter Paul was already on eight points to go with three assists while the Suns sat on a double digit lead. Though he appeared exhausted at halftime, it was clear that looks can be deceiving when the game restarted as he simply went back to business. The Pelicans for their part cut the lead to eight in the 4th quarter, but Paul simply responded by scoring or assisting on eight of the next nine Suns points to take the lead back to double figures while essentially bringing the contest to a close. Interestingly, by finishing the night with 22 points, 11 assists, three steals and just one turnover, Paul registered his 31st career playoff game with at least 20 points and 10 assists, taking him to third on the all time list behind just LeBron James and Magic Johnson.
Mikal Bridges more than covered for Devin Booker
While many thought Devin Booker’s absence would severely affect the Suns’ chances of progression in this series and indeed, life has been more complicated for Phoenix without him, the supporting cast did more than step up. In a team that has been known to be more system based than most, the question was always going to be ‘how will the Suns compensate for Booker’s absence i.e. where will the points come from?’ It appears that Mikal Bridges had an answer. Playing by far his best game for the series so far, Bridges was essentially a force of nature as he played both stellar defense and exceptional offense. On the night he ended with a playoff career high 31 points which accompanied five rebounds, two assists and four blocks. In in 47 minutes on court Bridges was 4 of 4 from beyond the arc, blocked several shots and jammed home two show stopping dunks for good measure. Cameroon Payne should also be mentioned as he came off the bench to put 23 points on the board.
Are the New Orleans Pelicans done and dusted?
First and foremost it must be said that the Pelicans are one tough team. Having seen their star player Zion Williamson sidelined for the entire season with a broken foot, New Orleans have gone from a 1-12 start to the Play-In tournament to a dog fight with the No. 1 seeded team in the playoffs. All things considered, they probably shouldn’t even be here, yet here they are. With that said they now head home for a do or die game against CP3 and Co. Lose and that’s the end of it, win and they force a Game 7 and a chance at playing for a spot in the Western Conference semi-finals. “This is what we live for, this is what we worked hard for,” head coach Willie Green said after their Play-In tournament victory. The question is can they pull it off one more time?