clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pelicans surrender 24-point lead as Devin Booker drops franchise-record 58 points against New Orleans in 118-114 loss to Suns

A frustrating night was made even more frustrating by the fact that Phoenix received 22 more free throw attempts

New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans were in great position to cleanse away two straight losses in Utah and finish the three-game road trip on a high note.

Devin Booker, unfortunately, spoiled those vibes.

The Pelicans had a commanding 83-59 lead almost five minutes into the third quarter. After falling behind by eight points out of the gates, New Orleans quickly turned things around and proceeded to do very little wrong.

CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas were hot early, combining for 25 of the team’s 34 first-quarter points. Dyson Daniels, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado produced positive minutes off the bench. Zion Williamson and Trey Murphy got rolling out of halftime.

Then the 2022 All-NBA First Teamer put on his damn cape to lead the Suns to a 118-114 victory.

Booker scored 20 of his 58 points in the third quarter to bring the Suns singlehandedly back from a 24-point deficit. He literally made everything and it didn’t matter whether he was guarded by Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels or Jose Alvarado.

“Yeah, great players, they get into a rhythm,” Willie Green said. “They get it going and you have to up your level of physicality, up your level of rotations, show them different coverages. I just think we weren’t aggressive enough to make an impact on him.

“A lot of it is also Booker. So I don’t want to take anything away from him. It’s both him making shots and us not being more aggressive.”

Sure, Booker appeared to receive the benefit of a few calls because on several drives he lowered his shoulder into Pelicans that seemed to beat him to spots, but hey, he’s on his home floor, undoubtedly one of the best players in the game and he was video-game hot.

Booker’s 58 points is the most ever scored against the New Orleans franchise. (Damon Stoudamire previously held the record with 54 points on Jan. 14, 2005.)

What was more irksome, the Pelicans — and Williamson in particular — didn’t receive similar consideration after taking on contact. Although Zion finished a lot of drives, it was apparent that he was hit on the majority of them; however, he wound up shooting less free throws than Josh Okogie.

“I think Z puts a lot of pressure on the rim, puts a lot of pressure on the defense consistently,” McCollum said. “I don’t feel like he gets the same whistle that we see for other star players, I don’t feel like it’s the same for him. Considering the fact that he rarely shoots outside of the paint, I feel like he should get more free throws. Considering the way other teams attack the paint and how we guard them, it’s generally a foul.

“Look at the game tonight. We shot, what, 13 free throws? Book shot 15 by himself. Book attacked a lot tonight, got to the paint, but he’s also a jump shooter. So that kind of shows you how the game went tonight.”

Don’t read this the wrong way, Okogie was great for the Suns. Several of his offensive rebounds late in the fourth quarter practically killed any chance the Pelicans had in stealing a win late. But the free throw disparity is off-the-charts glaring.

The Pelicans shot a grand total of 13 free throws. Thirteen! The Suns, meanwhile, enjoyed 35 attempts from the charity stripe. That’s simply bewildering! As fans in New Orleans know, the Pelicans do way more damage than most in the lane and this night was no different, as they outscored the Suns 48-34 in the paint.

“I think what’s more frustrating for me is that we are top 10 in the NBA in free throw attempts and we’re top 5 in the NBA in points in the paint,” Green said. “One of their guys shoots more than our whole team. That’s frustrating.”

Of course, the Pelicans deserve some blame in the loss too. They gave up 10 offensive rebounds to a team missing Deandre Ayton. They only grabbed four of their own misses. The Suns whipped the Pelicans 17-5 in second chance points.

And turnovers haunted New Orleans yet again. They committed nine more than the Suns, leading to a painful 27-7 points off turnovers advantage for Phoenix.

Play cleaner, more fundamental basketball, the Pelicans hang on to win this game despite Booker doing MVP-like things and the Suns getting to the free throw line 22 more times.

In addition to Booker’s 58, Chris Paul, who didn’t look aggressively for his shot until late, was money down the stretch in hitting two big 3-pointers to finish with 18 points and eight assists.

The Pelicans were led by Zion Williamson, who scored 30 points (on 15 shot attempts!) and had nine dimes but did add six turnovers. CJ McCollum had 27 points but 24 of them came in the first half. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

There’s no doubt that an 0-3 road trip stings. The team should have been able to walk away with at least one victory somewhere in the mix.

One adage comes to mind right now: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Let’s hope that rings true for these New Orleans Pelicans.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.