Zion Williamson drives vs. Deandre Ayton

Panzura postgame wrap: Suns 132, Pelicans 114

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

The old-school point guard seems to be a dying breed in the modern NBA, but Friday’s starters at the position combined to dish out 31 assists, consistently setting up teammates for open shots. While New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball had an excellent scoring and passing night, Phoenix’s Chris Paul was slightly better, leading the Suns to a fourth-quarter surge and road win. The former New Orleans Hornet finished with 15 points and 19 assists.

New Orleans led 102-91 through three quarters, but Phoenix dramatically reversed the momentum in the final period, outscoring the hosts 41-12.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Phoenix’s Cam Johnson swished a three-pointer from the left sideline, giving the visitors a 123-109 lead with 3:42 remaining. Johnson’s trey was part of a fourth-quarter stretch in which the Suns seemingly could not miss from beyond the three-point arc. New Orleans subbed in deep reserves at the 2:26 mark, acknowledging the outcome was decided.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Ball has been on a shooting tear during the month of February, showing drastic improvement from December and January. He went 6/12 from three-point range en route to his 21 points, while also being disruptive on defense (two blocks, three steals).

BY THE NUMBERS

38: Phoenix assists. The Suns’ ball movement was elite in the fourth quarter, while the Pelicans’ seemed to slow. New Orleans finished with 28 assists, which is a good game tally, but the 38 allowed were the most this season by an opponent.

24-12: New Orleans edge in foul shots attempted. That helped the Pelicans set their defense at junctures early in the night, but not in the final stanza.

7: Games remaining for the Pelicans prior to the All-Star break, including five in the Smoothie King Center. The only first-half road games left are in Milwaukee and San Antonio.

Revisiting three keys to victory

FRONTCOURT AT THE FOREFRONT

New Orleans dominated frontcourt starter scoring in a home victory Feb. 3 vs. Phoenix and won that by a decent margin again (57-39), but Phoenix still got some important contributions from center Deandre Ayton and surprise starting power forward Frank Kaminsky.

THREE-POINT BAROMETER

This scale tipped dramatically in Phoenix’s favor. The Suns were reminiscent of the way several recent Pelicans opponents have fared at the arc, going 22/39 (56 percent). They shot over 50 percent in both halves, at 10/19 and 12/20.

MISTAKES AT A MINIMUM

Unlike the first two head-to-head matchups, turnovers were not a determining factor in the season finale between the Western Conference squads. New Orleans committed 14, just one more than Phoenix’s miscue total.

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2020-21 Game #29: Pelicans vs. Suns

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