Suns vs. Pelicans Preview: Can New Orleans Even the Series?

Kenny Ducey previews how to bet Sunday's NBA Playoff matchup between the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans.

Suns vs. Pelicans Odds

Suns Odds -2.5
Pelicans Odds +2.5
Over/Under 215.5
Time 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Phoenix Suns may have lost Devin Booker to injury, but they managed a thrilling 114-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night and now hold a 2-1 lead in the series.

Should we expect Phoenix to remain the dominant team, or has New Orleans earned our respect?

Let’s get into this one.

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Chris Paul Carrying Team in Devin Booker’s Absence

First and foremost, Chris Paul. That’s all that needs to be said. The Point God had 19 fourth-quarter points to help Phoenix get across the finish line in Game 2, going 7-for-10 from the field, which feels like an incorrect statistic.

It simply did not seem like Paul could miss one of his signature midrange jumpers down the stretch and the veteran put the dagger in the Pelicans with a fall-away off-hand floater in the final minute of regulation.

One of the most striking things to me in that fourth quarter was how well the Suns rebounded. They won the battle on the glass against New Orleans 12-5, which was significant considering the Pelicans ranked third this season in rebounding rate and Phoenix was 13th.

Winning on the glass is certainly a way into this one for Phoenix, but so is the three-point shooting. The Suns were 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter and made just four threes all game long, shooting 15.4%. Phoenix was one of the best teams from deep this year and depending on how you look at Game 3 it’s actually quite a good sign they were able to win despite those horrid numbers.

Pelicans Need Better Rebounding in Game 4

Let’s talk about that battle on the boards. New Orleans was controlling things inside thanks to Jonas Valanciunas, but after a strong first quarter it didn’t get the Pelicans anywhere.

In the second half, New Orleans wound up going small and totally phasing out Valanciunas, playing him just about nine minutes in the third and just over one minute in the fourth.

Larry Nance Jr. has been a very important member of the Pelicans, but going to him in favor of Valanciunas backfired a bit. New Orleans is a great rebounding team because of its length and not necessarily because of one man, but it absolutely fell apart in that area of the game and allowed Phoenix an advantage it simply didn’t need.

The Pelicans were only able to knock down 36.4% of shots from deep despite going small. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Game 4 considering the drastic shift in strategy didn’t seem to work at all for New Orleans.

You obviously sacrifice some pace and shooting by leaning on Valanciunas, but at a certain point you will need to play to your strengths here if you’re New Orleans.

Suns-Pelicans Pick

The move to go small in Game 3 didn’t necessarily reek of desperation, but to me it was proof there may be no way back into this series for the Pelicans. It’s been a great run to this point, but New Orleans has tried everything on offense and it’s been a struggle to break through.

You can’t ask for a better night to play the Suns than one where they hit four threes all game, and even then Paul found a way to get the Suns across the finish line. You can expect more shots to fall due to the depth of this team on the perimeter and that could drive the nail in the coffin for the Pelicans.

Pick: Suns -2.5