The Pelicans Frustrated The Suns In A Big Game 4 Win To Even The Series

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Ever since Devin Booker exited Game 2 with a hamstring injury, the Suns have found themselves in a dogfight with the New Orleans Pelicans. That continued on Sunday night in New Orleans as the Pelicans managed to outwork the Suns in the second half, frustrating the defending Western Conference champs on their way to a 118-103 win to even the series at 2-2 going back to Phoenix.

The Suns got off to a solid start as they have throughout the series, leading at the half in all four contests, and this time they were led by Deandre Ayton and Cam Johnson, who entered the starting lineup in Booker’s place. Ayton dueled with Jonas Valanciunas inside and asserted his dominance for Phoenix, with 10 first quarter points as he got to work early, as he often does.

Valanciunas had his own success, providing a needed paint presence for the Pelicans on his way to a monster 26-point, 15-rebound game.

However, while Phoenix has taken care of the first half all series, the Pelicans continued their third quarter dominance in Game 4, as Brandon Ingram took over to push New Orleans to from down two to up 10 going into the fourth quarter.

The Pelicans early run had the Smoothie King Center buzzing, but he blew the roof off the building with a monster dunk on Torrey Craig, as New Orleans simply took it to the Suns.

The Suns could never quite complete a rally to get back in control of the game, thanks in large part to the sensational defense of the Pelicans, led by their two rookies: Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado. Jones continues to prove he is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders with his play in this series, blocking not one but two three-pointers in the fourth quarter to go along with a steal-and-score.

Alvarado found himself tasked with trying to disrupt the rhythm of one of the NBA’s best fourth quarter performers in Chris Paul and did just that, getting under the skin of the veteran, most notably forcing an 8-second violation that elicited as big of an ovation from the New Orleans crowd as any bucket.

As the Pelicans pulled away, the dagger came fittingly on a hustle play, as Larry Nance Jr. tipped out an offensive rebound to CJ McCollum, who buried a three to push the lead to 18.

From there, it was a celebration in New Orleans, with the final icing on the cake coming in the form of a vintage Alvarado steal, sneaking up on Paul from behind in the backcourt to set up Ingram’s fifth assist of the night to Jones.

Ingram finished with 30 points, six rebounds, and five assists to lead the Pelicans to the win alongside Valanciunas’ double-double, while McCollum added 18 points and Jones chipped in 13 points along with his sensational defense. For the Suns, they simply could not get anything going from the perimeter as Cam Johnson went cold after a strong start, finishing with 13 points, and Chris Paul couldn’t muster the same kind of fourth quarter effort as Game 3, finishing with just four points and 11 assists on the night. Ayton ended the game with 23 points and eight boards, and on a night where the guard play was lacking in terms of scoring, it’s fair to wonder why they went away from Ayton as a focal point after such a strong start to the game.

The series now shifts back to Phoenix all knotted at 2-2, with Devin Booker unlikely to make a return during this series. The Pelicans will be more confident than ever they can get the job done after how they’ve played the last three games (and really how they hung around in the first), and if Phoenix is going to get to the second round they’re going to need to regroup and find a way to match New Orleans’ consistent effort and intensity on both ends.

Source: https://uproxx.com/dimemag/pelicans-suns-video-highlights-ingram-ayton-valanciunas-jones/