By Ryann Yap

PHOTO: New York Post

“Point God” Chris Paul piloted the fourth quarter for the Phoenix Suns to foil a potential comeback from the New Orleans Pelicans, 110-99, in the 2022 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Game 1, at Footprint Center, Sunday night (Monday on Philippine Time).

Watching their lead deflate to six in the fourth, 87-81, the Suns found their antidote through Paul’s scorching offense to counter the major Pelicans run and seal the game.

CP3 dropped 19 of his 30 points in the last quarter, with 10 assists and three rebounds shy of a triple-double, on top of 12-of-16 shooting in the field and his 4-of-6 makes from beyond the arc.

Devin Booker added 25 points and eight assists while Deandre Ayton’s 21 points plus nine rebounds contributed to end the Pelicans’ resurgence hopes and gain a 1-0 series advantage for Phoenix.

“Just sort of taking what the defense gives us, when Book [Booker] is not in there, we always try to find other ways to score,” Paul said after being asked about when he decided to take over.  

CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. both drilled a three for the Pelicans in the early minutes of the last frame to cut down the deficit, 87-81, but then CP3 answered back with two treys of his own and two crafty lay-ups to help balloon their lead to 14, 99-85, at the 6:01 minute mark.

The Pelicans sparked another mini rally via Valanciunas' and-1 put-back followed by a Trey Murphy III corner triple with 1:44 time left, again trimming the Suns’ lead down to single digits, 106-97.

However, Mikal Bridges made a bail-out slash to the rim that extend Phoenix’s edge to 11 points, 108-97, with 1:19 remaining.

Paul charged in with the dagger after a double pump lay-up over the outstretched arms of Valanciunas to ice up their victory

McCollum posted 25 points, while Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points apiece, with the latter's postseason franchise record of 25 rebounds not enough to turn the tables for New Orleans.

The second game of the best-of-seven series will take place this coming Tuesday (Wednesday on Philippine Time), at the same arena.

Edited by Jostle Doen Pilayre