Suns vs. Pelicans Game 3 Preview: Can Chris Paul Come Through in New Orleans?

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey explains why he likes the shorthanded Phoenix Suns to win outright in Game 3 vs. the New Orleans Pelicans.

Suns vs. Pelicans Odds

Suns Odds -1.5
Pelicans Odds +1.5
Over/Under 216.5
Time 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

After losing Devin Booker to injury and dropping Game 2 against the New Orleans Pelicans in the process, the Phoenix Suns look to retake the series lead with a meaningful Game 3 win.

Are the potential roadblocks here too much for them to navigate? Let’s dig into this matchup below.

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Suns Still Elite Despite Injury

As noted above, the Suns are facing some adversity here for what feels like the first time all season. Though they’ve dealt with injury, it’s never felt like it would severely hamper Phoenix’s ability to win a championship. That is, until now.

The Suns are no longer favorites to win the NBA Finals in wake of the news Booker will miss at least the next two games with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, and considering they are now tied at 1-1 in their opening-round series against New Orleans.

In terms of how the Suns play without Booker, well, they’re still very good. Phoenix had a +4.7 Net Rating in the minutes their two-guard was off the floor according to compared to a +9.5 with him on the floor. The most significant difference was its offensive output, which decreased by roughly 10 points per 100 possessions when Booker was sitting. Defensively, the Suns actually improved by 5.3 points per 100 possessions.

With that said, the Suns were outscored by eight points after Booker went down with the injury in Game 2 and didn’t seem to follow the above trends. They went 57.1% from the field in the fourth quarter only to see New Orleans knock down 65% of its looks and go 6-of-8 from three.

Can the Pelicans Replicate Their Hot Shooting?

Yes, it was an offensive masterclass from the Pelicans in Game 2. A team that ranked 18th on that end all year long and 10th in the second half of the season wound up shooting 54.8% from the field and 56.7% from three in an 11-point victory over Phoenix.

The shots never stopped falling, either. The Pelicans shot well over 40% in each quarter but definitely turned it on late with a 67.5% mark from the field in the second half of the game and a solid 8-of-11 showing from three. They simply could not have played any better on that end, and while there was a strong charge from Phoenix late New Orleans would still hold it to a tame 53 points in the second half.

The biggest reason the Pelicans were able to put a hurting on the Suns was Brandon Ingram. He had 26 in the second half and pulled down seven boards, contributing to a massive game on the glass which saw New Orleans out-rebound Phoenix by 10.

This is one advantage the Pelicans have always had over the Suns and one that won’t change much in light of the Booker injury; they ranked third all year in rebounding and own the best rebounding rate of any team alive in the playoffs right now.

Suns-Pelicans Pick

It’s hard to say the Suns are a bad team without Booker considering their numbers with him off the court.

It’s also easy to say the Pelicans will not shoot close to 55% from the field all series as they did in the second half of Game 2.

It is a simply unsustainable mark and one that is well out of character. They were just 34.3% shooters from behind the arc after the All-Star break and a team that was barely in the top 10 in efficiency.

While New Orleans will still be able to bully Phoenix inside, I’m not entirely sure it will make a world of a difference here. I expect regression to set in for the Pelicans and a very steady Suns team that has won without Booker this season.

Phoenix did little wrong after his injury and simply watched as the Pelicans knocked down every shot they looked at. Over a longer period of time, the better team will win.

Pick: Suns ML (-120)