Behind the Numbers: Suns at Pelicans (Game 6)

A look at three key numbers related to Thursday’s Western Conference first round Game 6 in the Smoothie King Center between Phoenix and New Orleans (6:30 p.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, TNT, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

0: Times over the past 10 seasons that New Orleans has participated in a Game 6 or 7, with its lone playoff-series victory during that span coming in a 2018 sweep over Portland. Among current Pelicans players, CJ McCollum is 2-1 in his NBA career in Game 6s, scoring at least 20 points in each instance, as well as 30 in a victory over Denver in 2019. McCollum has been part of a team that trailed 3-2 in a Western Conference series but went on to win, with his ’19 Trail Blazers eliminating the Nuggets in Game 7. McCollum closed out Denver by pouring in 37 points in Colorado. Jonas Valanciunas is 2-3 career in Game 6s, all with Toronto from 2014-18. Other Pelicans roster members with previous Game 6 playing experience are Tony Snell (2-2), Larry Nance Jr. (1-1, in 2018 with Cleveland) and Garrett Temple (1-3). Gary Clark was the only other New Orleans player who’d been to the playoffs prior to 2022, but Clark never appeared in a Game 6 with his Houston or Orlando postseason clubs.

104: Total points scored by New Orleans rookies in the playoffs (Herbert Jones 48, Jose Alvarado 37, Trey Murphy III 19), more than doubling the aggregate from the first-year pros of any other team. Denver is second on the list with 46 points, which means that Jones by himself has produced more offense than the rookies from any of the other 15 clubs. Jones, Murphy and Alvarado rank 1-3-5 individually in total minutes logged by rookies in the playoffs, with that top five rounded out by Toronto’s Scottie Barnes and Denver’s Bones Hyland. Not surprisingly, Jones leads all rookies in both steals (seven) and blocks (five, including multiple rejections of Phoenix three-point attempts).

238-182: New Orleans total rebounding advantage in the series, after the Pelicans have won the board battle in all five games. NOLA’s edge in offensive boards is an even more staggering ratio at 79-40, but the Pelicans haven’t always been able to take advantage of the extra opportunities because they’re shooting 45.4 percent from the field, compared to Phoenix’s excellent rate of 50.9. Both teams have struggled from three-point range in the series, with the Pelicans holding an edge at 35.8 percent, while the Suns have only made 30.8 percent of their looks from deep. Valanciunas is leading the NBA playoffs in rebounding average (15.6) and offensive rebounding average (6.2) by a significant margin in those respective categories over second-place Giannis Antetokounmpo (13.4) and Rudy Gobert (4.0).



Game 5 win vs. New Orleans

Chris Paul, Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Reserves: Landry Shamet, Cam Payne, JaVale McGee, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Holiday

Notes: Devin Booker remains listed as out by the Suns due to a right hamstring strain. Dario Saric has missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a right ACL tear. … Phoenix’s foul shooting has dipped by 1.5 percentage points in the playoffs. The Suns ranked seventh in the NBA during the regular season at 79.7, but are shooting 78.2 percent through five games against New Orleans. Of course, Booker was Phoenix’s best foul shooter during the regular season (86.8 percent).


Game 5 loss at Phoenix

CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Jonas Valanciunas

Reserves: Jose Alvarado, Larry Nance, Trey Murphy III, Devonte’ Graham, Naji Marshall

Notes: New Orleans’ foul shooting has dipped by 2.3 percentage points in the playoffs. The Pelicans ranked 10th in the NBA during the regular season at 78.9, but are shooting 76.6 percent through five games against Phoenix. … New Orleans shot exactly 40 percent in Game 5, its ninth-worst shooting percentage from the field all season, out of 89 outings. The Pelicans have shot under 30 percent from three-point range in two straight games, but also held the Suns under that rate in both Game 3 and 4.



New Orleans has needed second-half rallies consistently throughout this series, trailing at halftime in every game. Valanciunas stressed after Game 5 that the Pelicans need to bring the same level of energy at the outset of contests as they do all night. That’s potentially even more the case Thursday for a tip-off that’s a bit earlier than normal (6:30 p.m.).


While limiting New Orleans to just 97 points in Game 5, Phoenix’s defense looked every bit of the third-ranked unit it was during the regular season. Bridges and Ayton blocked four shots apiece, a chunk of why the Pelicans only shot 40 percent from the field. New Orleans needs to generate more fast-break opportunities, to prevent Phoenix from being able to set its formidable halfcourt defense.


At forward, Ingram has been one of the best players across the entire NBA in the playoffs, averaging 28, six and five, while Bridges authored arguably his best postseason performance as a pro in Game 5, depositing 31 points.