Devin Booker starts, Chris Paul closes in Suns’ playoff opener vs. Pelicans

Apr 17, 2022, 7:12 PM | Updated: 11:37 pm
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns attempts a shot over Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Peli...
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns attempts a shot over Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 17, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Devin Booker did not wait for a feel-out period as the Phoenix Suns began their 2022 playoff journey a week removed from their last regular-season game.

The New Orleans Pelicans learned that the hard way as they trailed Phoenix 53-34 at the half.

But a game that initially felt like it would allow the Suns to hit cruise control got within eight points heading to the fourth quarter and six points with 10 minutes to go. That’s when Chris Paul punched the accelerator hard to put away a 110-99 victory.

Paul scored 19 fourth-quarter points, including a flurry of threes while picking on New Orleans big man Larry Nance Jr.

For a stretch from the 11:15 mark of the fourth to a Mikal Bridges jumper off an assist from Booker at the 5:16 mark, Paul scored or assisted all 19 Suns points.

The 36-year-old finished with 30 points, 10 assists and three steals.

Booker hit the opening shot of the game, a three, and put together a masterful first quarter. He scored in transition, hitting another pull-up three late in the opening period, and also piled up four assists, a few of which were of the alley-oop-initiating variety.

By the end of the first quarter, Booker had 10 points, four assists and three rebounds.

The Suns led 28-16 after the first.

Booker scored two points in the second quarter but added two assists for 12 points and six dimes at halftime. He finished the game with 25 points and eight assists.

Booker aside, Phoenix’s defense held New Orleans to 22% shooting in the first half and 38% for the game. Pelicans stars C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram combined to shoot 6-of-22.

They found some pop later, with McCollum closing with 25 points and Ingram dropping 18.

Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas scored 18 points and powered to 25 rebounds with 13 on the offensive end, but Suns center Deandre Ayton scored 21 to go with nine rebounds and four blocks.

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