NEW ORLEANS – – Devin Booker scored 33 points, Chris Paul added 11 points and 15 assists, and the Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-110 on Tuesday night.
Mikal Bridges added 23 points for Phoenix, who earned their seventh victory over the Pelicans in the last nine games. He and Cameron Johnson (18 points) both scored five 3-pointers, while veteran center Bismack Biyombo shot 6 for 6 and scored 16.
Suns coach Monty Williams, who had missed the last four games after contracting COVID-19, said Paul was the key. The veteran point guard had five assists in the 5:56 final, when the Suns sealed the victory with a 22-11 run.
“He found guys all night long,” Williams said. “He had that look in his eyes when I called coins. He had a great rhythm and the guys were reversing the shots. Chris found guys all night.
The Suns led by 16 points in the first quarter but were only a 101-99 lead after Graham de Devonte scored his third 3-point in the fourth quarter with 6:21 left. But Booker’s 11 points in the fourth quarter, most of which were set up by Paul’s skillful handling of the ball, dulled the rally.
The victory gave the Suns a 2-1 road trip.
“It’s about making the right plays on the stretch,” Booker said. “It was a good trip. Could have been a great trip. We need to improve to keep this train running.
Graham scored 28 points for New Orleans, who lost four of five. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds.
“We competed until the end, but Phoenix is the type of team that knows how to end games,” Graham said. “We haven’t had any stoppages.”
The Suns led by 13 points halfway through the third quarter. The Pelicans used an 8-0 streak to reduce the deficit to 74-69 before Phoenix continued their scorching perimeter shot to lead 95-84 after three. The Suns have scored 13 of 24 3-pointers in three quarters.
The Suns had six of their first seven shots, with Booker assisting on four baskets, to take a 16-5 lead. Phoenix went 15 of 25 from the field en route to a 42-31 first quarter lead behind Booker’s 13 points.
The 42 points have been the most allowed in any quarterback this season by the Pelicans. The Suns were 5 of 10 at long range, with center Jalen Smith making both shots from long range. Smith briefly left the game early in the second quarter after receiving an inadvertent nudge from Valanciunas, making the Suns even smaller.
“We started slowly,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green. “This first quarter, 42 points is way too many points. We have to be better defensively and be stronger in our communication, but our guys fought. “
Suns: The Suns went 2-2 in Williams’ absence under the direction of senior assistant Kevin Young. “It bothered me like you can’t imagine not being there,” Williams said. “It hit me in the butt for a few days, and it surprised me a bit. Typically when I have a bad flu I was always able to function, but for about three or four days, man, I was totally burnt out. … The Suns played a small squad without C Deandre Ayton, F Jae Crowder and C JaVale McGee sidelined due to health and safety protocols. … The Suns tied 29-8 for the team’s second-best start in franchise history in the first 37 games of a season (31-6 in 2004-05).
Pelicans: Pelicans rookie F Herb Jones, who normally draws the team’s toughest defensive task, is increasingly known for his neutralization ability. “In this league, you get thrown into the fire when you’re this good,” Green said. “He will continue to improve and learn. His progression from the beginning until now is a huge leap. … Green says he’s not worried about F Brandon Ingram, who went 5 for 18, including 0 for 4 from long distance, and had five turnovers in his second game due to pain in his back. Achilles left. “It’s still peeling off some rust,” Green said. “Brandon will be fine.”
Suns: Host the LA Clippers on Thursday.
Pelicans: Host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.