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‘Shaqtin’ A Fool’ win over Pelicans gives Suns boost as injuries pile up

New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in New Orleans, Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Suns won 138-136 in two overtimes. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

PHOENIX — In the heat of the moment, the New Orleans Pelicans had a meltdown in overtime against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

Suns guard Jamal Crawford referenced “Shaqtin’ A Fool” on Twitter afterward, a nod to Shaquille O’ Neal’s series on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” that chronicles the biggest NBA goof-ups each week.

The 19-year vet Crawford said Monday after the team’s shootaround that he’s never seen anything like it.

“That was almost like a summer league game,” he said of the Suns winning on a technical foul called on the Pelicans after they asked for a timeout that they didn’t have available.

Up one point with 15.4 seconds left, New Orleans made one of two free throws but rebounded the miss and went back to the line.

From there, Julius Randle made only one of two opportunities as well, giving the Suns a chance to tie only down three.

Devin Booker’s 3-pointer didn’t go with 9.2 seconds left, and with the Pelicans securing the rebound and calling their last timeout, the game was essentially over.

But that was one of those moments when saying “essentially” instead of “definitely” was needed.

On the inbounds play, the Pelicans couldn’t get the ball in and committed a five-second violation.

As you can see on the replay above, New Orleans’ inbounder Elfrid Payton looked at New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry as the clock wound down, and Gentry stormed toward the official to call timeout. Problem is, they didn’t have one.

“He was trying to save his guy from five seconds,” Crawford said Monday.

The Suns tried to argue a technical foul should be called for New Orleans attempting to call a timeout without one — a la Chris Webber for Michigan in the 1993 NCAA national championship game — but to no avail.

After all the confusion was sorted out, giving the Suns a free timeout to draw up a play, the Pelicans needed to foul up three in order for the Suns to not be able to tie by hitting a triple.

Instead, they didn’t foul Booker on the inbound, and Josh Jackson’s 3-pointer tied the game.

“I just knew Book was going to make the right play,” Crawford said.

Once that bucket went down with 1.1 seconds left, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry clearly called a timeout — again. The referees then huddled without blowing the whistle to pause play as everyone on the Suns pleaded for the technical foul call to be made. Assistant coach Joe Prunty was practically at halfcourt to get the call.

Eventually, that ruling was made.

“We were excited,” Crawford said. “We were almost shocked.”

Booker hit the technical free throw, and with possession, Jackson was fouled on the inbounds and hit one of two, missing the second with 0.6 seconds left to end the game.

“That goes on the top,” head coach Igor Kokoskov said Monday when asked where the game ranks amongst the craziest he’s seen.

At the time, it was difficult to register the magnitude of the Suns winning the second game of a road back-to-back without Richaun Holmes, Tyler Johnson and T.J. Warren.

But the win feels even bigger after Monday’s injury report came out.

Against the Chicago Bulls, the Suns will be without Holmes (right quad strain), Johnson (sore right knee) Kelly Oubre Jr. (left thumb sprain) and Warren (right ankle soreness).

That’s gonna have the Suns relying on players like Ray Spalding for critical minutes.

The 56th pick in last year’s draft joined the Suns on a 10-day contract in late February before signing through the rest of the season without a meaningful minute played.

He made the Suns brass look smart for doing so on Saturday. In 15 minutes, Spalding had eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He was a game-high plus-13.

“He belongs here, his teammates love him,” Kokoskov said. “His performance was very solid and there’s a good chance he’s gonna play tonight.”

Without Holmes in New Orleans, Spalding had two spot shifts behind Deandre Ayton while starting power forward Dragan Bender played an extended 34 minutes.

At point guard, the Suns started rookie De’Anthony Melton and gave him his first real run since missing 10 games because of a sprained ankle.

The question is what they do behind him. Kokoskov did not play a backup point guard and rode his wings hard, giving Bridges 40 minutes, Jackson 33 and Oubre 43.

Without Oubre now, Crawford or Elie Okobo could see more time, and the same goes for Troy Daniels and Jackson.

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