The New Orleans Pelicans pulled within 8 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1 before the Phoenix Suns won 110-99 in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs thanks to Chris Paul’s 13-straight points. Willie Green, the Pelicans’ head coach, had a promising playoff debut, making multiple in-game adjustments to put pressure on Suns coach Monty Williams’ No. 1 seeded club.
The Suns employed a straightforward strategy against the Pelicans, allowing Chris Paul and Devin Booker to take command of the game. The Suns were clearly in playoff shape after a week off, winning by 11 points at home.
Deandre Ayton (21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) stalled down over a dozen Pelican drives into the paint, while Paul (30 points, ten assists, seven rebounds) and Booker (25 points, eight assists, four rebounds) kept the offense flowing.
Despite scoring 18 points and grabbing 25 rebounds, Jonas Valanciunas was unable to match Ayton’s intensity. As New Orleans’ shots were not falling, he had 13 offensive rebounds. Their 36/95 shooting night contributed to the Pelicans’ first 20-rebound game in playoff history.
Brandon Ingram scored once on two three-point attempts and failed to keep the Suns defense honest with additional attempts from beyond the arc. They condensed the floor, forced him into danger, and disrupted his mid-range shooting rhythm.
He finished with 18 points on 17 shots and five turnovers throughout the game.
CJ McCollum finished with 25 points (36 percent) on 9 of 25 shooting, eight rebounds, and six assists. McCollum couldn’t keep moving the ball fast enough to stay ahead of the switching rotations as Phoenix focused on stopping his first option.
The Pelicans were revealed by Green “I need to play more quickly. They have us in their grasp. You can’t play at a leisurely pace. You must get the ball in-bounded or rebounded as rapidly as possible. Put a lot of effort into your deeds. I believed we were a step behind schedule.”
In a game where practically nothing went as planned, Green found some silver linings. New Orleans scored 37 points in the third quarter after a 34-point first half.
New Orleans missed 14 wide-open shots, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. The Pelicans anticipate to play better now that their nerves have settled, and they’ve realized that the physicality levels in playoff basketball have increased.
Larry Nance Jr. (14 points, six rebounds, three assists) played well off the bench for Phoenix, especially when certain lines targeted Jaxson Hayes. Trey Murphy III and Naji Marshall both scored six points on 5-of-8 shooting. Jose Alvarado offered consistent leadership and full-court point-of-attack defense, which irritated Paul to the point of a technical penalty.
On one play, Alvarado even boxed out Ayton and did more than enough to help the Pelicans get back within striking distance. Devonte’ Graham only played for 10 minutes, and Jaxson Hayes only played for 11 minutes.
Coach Green changed the team’s rotations, which will most likely be a motif for the Pelicans this season. In the playoffs, though, he continues to emphasize fundamental basketball, as victory at all levels is usually decided by a few key elements.
At 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday, April 19, the Pelicans and Suns will play Game 2 inside Footprint Center in Phoenix. The first-round playoff game will be broadcast on TNT and Bally Sports New Orleans.6