The New Orleans Pelicans, fresh off two difficult losses in Utah, will conclude their three-game road trip in Phoenix against a Suns team salivating for payback.
In what’ll probably be the harshest environment they face this regular season, the Pelicans will not only have to contend with the Suns looking to avenge two defeats in New Orleans last week, they’ll also have to deal with hostile fans inside the Footprint Center.
The retaliation by the Phoenix crowd will be curious after New Orleanians hounded the Suns, culminating with several “Chris Paul sucks” chants. You can be sure that Jose Alvarado — whether he plays or not — incurs a heavy dose of usual wrath, but expect for other Pelicans to be targeted.
Zion Williamson should receive a lot of jeers for his exclamation dunk to finish off the Dec. 9th 128-117 victory, and maybe those who were caught on video in the small skirmish after the final buzzer, like Naji Marshall, too.
The Suns weren’t happy with Zion’s windmill dunk at the end of the game pic.twitter.com/N2NyLb2q9b— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 10, 2022
As for the game itself, the Pelicans are expected to still be without Brandon Ingram, but Alvarado should be penciled in despite his probable status on the injury report because that person is playing.
Jose Alvarado won’t refer to Chris Paul by name.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) December 10, 2022
Asked him if it meant more to fight through the rib contusion this game.
“If that person was playing, I’m playing.”
Said he wasn’t going to miss this game.
Alvarado will help in more ways than one. In addition to making life difficult for Chris Paul, his playmaking is necessary while Ingram remains out.
In the last game against the Jazz, the Pelicans offense collapsed when both Williamson and CJ McCollum took a rest late in the third quarter. New Orleans’ inability to generate points allowed Utah to catch up quickly and take the lead.
Alvarado is an underrated playmaker. He can make things happen on dribble drives, with options in cutters, like Larry Nance Jr. and Marshall, and spot-up shooters, in Trey Murphy and Devonte’ Graham.
The Pelicans will undoubtedly look to dominate the lane again. In the two contests last week, they totaled 142 points in the paint, offsetting some subpar perimeter shooting. Helping that cause should be Deandre Ayton’s absence.
Phoenix’s starting center is slated to miss Saturday’s contest due to a left ankle sprain, and joining him on the sidelines will be Cam Payne, who is listed as out with a right foot strain.
A third consecutive loss is staring the Pelicans right in the face after their seven-game winning streak. That happens when a team is on the road and playing in difficult environments, and there may not be a harsher test all season.
Based on recent history, expect a war to be waged between the Pelicans and Suns, one that shouldn’t be missed.