A lot of challenge for this Game 6 in New Orleans. Led 3-2, the Pelicans must win to stay alive and force Game 7 in Phoenix. For the Suns, the opportunity to close this series is ideal, because Devin Booker is back after missing the previous three games.
The first quarter keeps the promises of a twirling game, in a jam-packed Smoothie King Center, which makes itself heard. The two formations offer a pleasant spectacle, very rhythmic in attack with two different styles (28-28). On the one hand, the Pelicans are pounding near the circle, with 18 points scored in the racket, and a Brandon Ingram in the oven and in the mill (5 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists). The Suns operate them at mid-range, like a Deandre Ayton at 10 points at 4/4 on shots. For his return, Devin Booker is a little rusty, unsurprisingly (2 points to 1/2 in 7 minutes).
The rest of the first half is much more unbalanced, since New Orleans easily wins the second quarter, 30 to 20. Thanks in particular to an 11-0 at the end of the first period, and a warming CJ McCollum, the locals offer themselves a small comfortable mattress at the break (58-48), against the surprisingly inefficient Suns (7/18) despite the rise of Chris Paul (10 points and 2 assists at 4/4 on shots).
After the break, and certainly a big blower from Monty Williams, the Suns return to the field with clear ideas. While CJ McCollum is handicapped by his faults (5) and quickly joins the bench, Phoenix puts the gum in attack (34 points, 15/20 on shots), under the impulse of a divine “CP3”, which activates the “Point God” mode and dissects the Pelicans defense in the third quarter (13 points, 100% on shots). The Arizona squad furiously returned to the locals after 36 minutes (85-82).
In the final act, the experience of the 2021 finalists makes the difference. Because after ten minutes of exchanging baskets with the Pelicans, the Suns stop scaring each other and deliver the decisive actions. First through Mikal Bridges, who intercepts an important ball from the hands of Brandon Ingram in the “money time”. A few seconds later, in the other half of the field, this interception turns into a 3-pointer from Devin Booker, yet not on his plate in this meeting.
But it is obviously the inevitable Chris Paul who definitively seals the outcome of this meeting. Monumental throughout the game, the Suns maestro scored two shots in a row from mid-range in the last 40 seconds to increase the gap to +5. After Brandon Ingram’s failure behind the arc, Jae Crowder finishes the job on the free throw line and Phoenix wins, eliminating the brave Pelicans from these 2022 playoffs.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
Devin Booker, rusty but ultimately valuable. Absent since halftime of Game 2, the back was making his return for this 6th game of the series, when we did not expect to see him again before the next round. Struggling in the first half, he managed to find some semblance of rhythm during the second period, and ultimately proved to be very valuable in the “money-time”. First with a big 3-point shot, then with a cool 2/2 on the free throw line in the last minute. In 32 minutes, he compiled 13 points (5/12), 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
A frustrating last game for CJ McCollum. Solid since the start of the series, the rear of the Pelicans ended the season on a mixed note, with an average offensive performance (16 points, 7/16), troubled by foul problems. The former Blazer indeed suffered his 5th personal foul halfway through the 3rd quarter, and then only returned to the field at the start of the “money-time”… He therefore spent a great part of the second period on the bench, while Chris Paul and the Suns gradually regained control of the game.
TOPS / FLOPS
✅ Chris Paul. The Suns point guard signed the most successful game in the history of the playoffs from the point of view of address: with 33 points at 14/14 on shots, he set the record for the most baskets scored consecutively without failure ! Irresistible on “pick-and-roll”, he carried his team on his shoulders at all times, while Devin Booker was generally in difficulty. At almost 37 years old, “CP3” still has a lot under the hood. Without him, the Suns went back to Phoenix for a 7th inning.
✅ Pelicans rookies. Very useful during the otherwise regular, Jose Alvarado (11 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals), Trey Murphy III (12 points, 4/7 three-pointers, 3 rebounds) and Herb Jones (16 points, 4 rebounds , 4 assists, 4 interceptions) did not disappoint in this series, even less during this Game 6. While CJ McCollum was eating his black bread on the bench because of his faults, the three rookies, almost alone, have kept the Pelicans in the game, as the Suns furiously came back to their height. Their future at NOLA is bright.
✅ Suns lieutenants. The Suns certainly needed a huge Chris Paul to emerge unscathed from this Game 7, but the “CP3” festival would have been in vain without the XXL contributions of Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton. The first, who spent 44 minutes in the field, did everything, as usual (18 points, 2/2 three-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals). The second, very quickly in rhythm in the first quarter, signs an authoritative match near the circle, with 22 points (10/12), 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Despite a Devin Booker in the hard, Phoenix is doing thanks to the depth of its workforce around Chris Paul. A test of character and resilience passed, and it’s reassuring for the future.
Game 1: in Phoenix, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, against the Mavericks or the Jazz.