Six turnovers disrupted the Pels’ offensive attack in the first quarter. In the second, the Suns enjoyed far too many open looks and rediscovered their stroke from 3-point range, which also carried into the third. In the fourth, everyone but Jose Alvarado seemed to be out of juice.
The offense, as evidenced by the 14 assists and 15 turnovers, struggled to get into any rhythm. One imagined the night may be long when they attempted five 3-pointers in their first 12 shot attempts. None dropped. Shooting the 3-ball isn’t considered a team strength. Soon thereafter, Ingram had three turnovers to his name — it should have been four but one was deemed a block by Mikal Bridges — within the game’s first 10 minutes.
The Pelicans finished with only five makes in 25 attempts from 3, but it was also noticeable that the team failed to enjoy their usual good looks from all over the floor. And when they did run into a few, even Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum failed to convert.
Credit the Phoenix defense, but another large obstacle proved to be that New Orleans didn’t get into their offense quickly enough. They did not decisively seek to play to their strengths. With the Pelicans failing to dial up the pace throughout, far too many attempts came deep into the shot clock.
The Pelicans fell behind by as many as 18 points close to the middle of the third quarter, but as it became customary long ago, they didn’t quit, pulling to within seven points on several occasions in the fourth. By that time though, they couldn’t find the bottom of the net.
Ingram, who finished with 22 points on 19 field goal attempts, missed all four of his shots in the final frame. McCollum made 2 of 8 to close his night with 21 points on 22 attempts.
Jonas Valanciunas posted a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but his two scores in the first half were a couple of early tip-ins.
Herb Jones was solid defensively (two steals, two blocks), but he added only one made bucket. Trey Murphy didn’t register a single shot attempt in 13 minutes. Devonte’ Graham hoisted the ball three times, but nothing dropped. More problematic, he was a sieve defensively and had two turnovers in only seven minutes of action.
And therein lies the problem, Graham ate into some of Alvarado’s playing time. It’s been clear for awhile now which player deserves the only action on the court between the two.
Honestly, there wasn’t a good spark outside of Alvarado, who scored 12 points and made a slew of stellar defensive plays. Once again, he forced Chris Paul into an 8-second violation. He also had a couple of steals.
Chris Paul had it going early, scoring 12 points through first 13 minutes of the game clock. The Point God finished with a line of 22 points, 11 assists and three steals; however, he was from their star on the night.
Mikal Bridges was a precision-like machine. In addition to his stellar defensive effort (one steal, four blocks), he was ridiculously good on offense. He scored 31 points on 12 of 17 from the field, knocking down all four of his 3-point attempts plus going 3 for 3 from the free throw line. That’s incredible efficiency, especially considering he played every single minute of the game but one.
There’s not much more to add other than it appears Ingram dodged a significant injury after a hard fall in the fourth quarter where he landed on his right hand.
Brandon Ingram has his right pinky and ring finger taped up post game.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) April 27, 2022
Says he’ll be fine. pic.twitter.com/n2D1i6iR9G
The necessary levels of physicality and focus were not present. Considering how poorly they fared in so many areas though, it feels as if the Pelicans can use this as motivation of sorts for game 6.
New Orleans was in position to steal a victory if they had only closed out the contest on a much, much stronger note. On the flip side, a stronger start could have also proven the winning difference.
With their backs against the wall in facing elimination, one has to like their chances of bouncing back strongly. They’ve already come through in the clutch twice in keeping their season alive by surviving the Play-In Tournament.
See you all inside the Smoothie King Center on Thursday!