|Over/Under||215.5 (-110 / -110)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via <!–BetMGM–>BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
After a crushing defeat in Game 4 of their opening-round playoff series, the Phoenix Suns now find themselves in something of a must-win situation tied at 2-2 with the New Orleans Pelicans.
While the Pelicans have now played the Suns close or won outright in three straight games, could there be signs that a Suns turnaround is looming? Let’s break this one down.
Valanciunas and the Pelicans Bouncing Back
Just when it seemed like the Pelicans simply were out of answers, they roared back in a big way.
Game 3 was a story of useless adjustments and the inability to capitalize on the Suns’ poor shooting. New Orleans went small in the fourth, relegating Jonas Valanciunas to just one minute in the entire quarter. With that, they were cooked on the glass and severely limited on the offensive end.
In Game 4, the Pelicans went back to Valanciunas for big minutes and got 26 points and 15 rebounds out of the big man. Instead of subbing Valanciunas out for Larry Nance, Jr., they found a way to play them in the same lineups and unlocked the best in both. Valanciunas wound up a +16, and Nance Jr. was a +14.
The Pelicans played physical basketball by feeding the post, rebounding the ball and getting to the line. They managed to shoot 42 free throws to the Suns’ 15 and out-rebounded the Suns by nine.
Will the Suns Knock Down 3s in Game 5?
It appears that Chris Paul is human. After his two 19-point fourth quarters led the Suns to their first two wins of the series in Games 1 and 3, the future Hall of Famer managed just four points in the entire contest in Game 4. While he did dish out 11 assists, he turned the ball over three times as the Suns struggled on offense.
Phoenix was once again ice cold from beyond the arc in Game 4. After knocking down just 15.4% in Game 3 and managing to win on the back of Paul, the Suns hit just 25.9% of their looks from deep in a Game 4 loss. This was a top-10 3-point shooting team during the regular season, and they will need some better shooting variance luck if they hope to cover in Game 5.
While the continued absence of Devin Booker will make shooting the lights out from deep a challenge, it’s worth noting the Suns shot 37.3% on 3s this season at home compared to 35.4% on the road. Perhaps seeing those home rims will do them some good.
It’s also worth noting here that Jae Crowder was in deep foul trouble in Game 4 and consequently played just 29 minutes. Through the first four games, he has a team-best +3.6 Net Rating, according to NBA.com.
Perhaps the Suns have just been a tad unlucky in the last two games. While the loss of Booker certainly hurts, it’s not like this team has no one else who can shoot the basketball. While it’s harder to shoot on the road, it’s surprising that one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA couldn’t muster up better than 25% from beyond the arc combined in Games 3 and 4.
This is in some ways a testament to the Pelicans’ defense, but heading back home, we can expect the Suns to hit more shots given the season’s worth of data we have to work from. As long as they shoot anything close to average, Crowder stays out of foul trouble and Paul hits more than two jumpers, the Suns will be absolutely fine.
While I’ve listed three qualifiers, it would be shocking to see any one of those things fail to happen two times in a row, especially as they return home.
I’ll back the Suns here at what I feel is a bit of a discount given how closely the Pelicans have played the Suns in the last two games.
Pick: Suns -6.5 (-110)