In the words of Jae Crowder, closeout games are the hardest to win in a playoff series.

That was fully apparent in the Suns’ Game 6 contest against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night as Devin Booker returned to the starting lineup after sitting out the past three contests.

Trailing by 10 at halftime, Phoenix rallied to take the lead with 6:09 left in the third quarter, though the Pelicans kept coming. They responded with a 16-11 run to close the period and held a 102-101 lead with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter.

But that’s when the Suns — who had the best clutch numbers in the NBA during the regular season — responded. Using a 13-8 run to close the game, Phoenix advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals with a 115-109 win over the Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.

The Suns were led by Chris Paul, who finished with 33 points on an astounding 14-of-14 shooting that set a record becoming the first player in NBA history to make 13+ shots in a Playoff game without a miss. Per usual, Paul’s impact was fully felt in the fourth quarter, in which he had 10 of his points.

With the Suns trailing 100-99 with 4:15 remaining, Paul buried a key mid-range shot to regain the lead. He then sunk two free throws and a pull-up shot to give the Suns a 112-107 advantage with 28.7 seconds to go, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Behind Paul, Deandre Ayton finished with 22 points and seven rebounds on 10-of-12 shooting. Mikal Bridges had 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and Devin Booker had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in his first game back from a right hamstring strain, including a clutch 3-pointer to give the Suns a 106-104 lead with 1:42 to go.

Phoenix will have a few days off before it begins its semifinals series against the Dallas Mavericks or the Utah Jazz. If the Mavericks win Game 6 of their series tonight, Game 1 between them and the Suns will be on Monday.



Chris Paul: 33 points, 8 assists, 14/14 shooting

Deandre Ayton: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

Mikal Bridges: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Devin Booker: 13 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds


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