An intense, hard-fought, nip-and-tuck battle to keep the season alive came down to the final minute, where the NBA’s best team at late-game execution made just enough plays to stave off and eliminate upset-minded New Orleans.
Phoenix trailed by three points entering the fourth quarter, but won that period by a 33-24 margin. The Suns rode incredible shooting from Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, who combined to go 24/26 from the field. Paul did not miss in his 14 attempts, often benefiting from friendly Smoothie King Center rims he shot on as a New Orleans Hornet from 2005-11.
For the Pelicans, a season that began with a 1-12 start culminated with two memorable play-in wins and a pair of playoff victories over a Suns club that led the league with a 64-18 mark during the regular season. New Orleans made the playoffs for the first time since 2018, catching and passing a number of Western Conference teams to earn a spot.
“It looks like we’ll be in a couple more postseasons,” forward Brandon Ingram said of the team’s future. “There is a lot of confidence coming from this (competitive series vs. Phoenix). We’ll know what to expect a little bit more next year. We look forward to the summer and getting better.”
“We’ve got a great group,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said of his players. “They fought all the way to the end. We’re all proud of our guys.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Jae Crowder sank a free throw with 13 seconds left, giving Phoenix a six-point lead. New Orleans misfired on a series of three-point attempts in the final half-minute, allowing the Suns to prevail. In his return to the court from a hamstring injury, Devin Booker made one of the night’s biggest baskets, a three-pointer to give the Suns a late lead.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Just when Phoenix seemed to be trying to take control, rookie Herbert Jones put together a fierce third-quarter stretch in which he was a demon on both ends of the court. The Alabama product finished with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and of course, four steals.
In another sign of just how important and valuable the second-round pick was to the Pelicans, he logged 40 minutes in the must-win game, second to Ingram’s 44 minutes.
BY THE NUMBERS
99.6: Percentage chance New Orleans has of adding a top-10 draft pick to its arsenal during the May 17 lottery.
36-8: New Orleans advantage in points in the paint in Thursday’s first half. The final tally was 60-40, but Phoenix shot 60 percent overall from the field.
36-32: Pelicans rebounding advantage. Given how much NOLA dominated the boards throughout the series, this close margin qualified as a notable “win” for Phoenix.
REVISITING FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME
A BETTER START
It was the Pelicans’ best first half of the series, resulting in their first intermission lead at 58-48. But the Suns scored 67 points after the break.
PLAY WITH PACE
Although New Orleans still had too many possessions up against the shot clock at times, the hosts were more aggressive and therefore won fast-break points 20-7.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
At forward, Ingram held the slight upper hand against one of the NBA’s top defensive players, scoring 21 points and handing out 11 assists. Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges followed up his 31-point performance in Game 5 with 18 points. The forwards combined to commit 10 turnovers.