NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Chris Paul scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the Phoenix Suns overcame Devin Booker’s absence to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 114-111 on Friday night in Game 3 of the first-round series.
Deandre Ayton added 28 points and 17 rebounds to help the top-seeded Suns take a 2-1 series lead. Paul scored 15 of Phoenix’s first 23 points of the final quarter. He also had 14 assists.
Booker strained his right hamstring Tuesday night after scoring 31 first-half points in a 125-114 home loss. He sat on the bench during Game 3.
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Mikal Bridges had 17 points for the Suns. Backup center center JaVale McGee scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting as the Suns hurt the Pelicans inside.
Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 34 points. CJ McCollum had 30.
Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.
Jose Alvarado kept the Pelicans in it in the fourth with seven consecutive points, but Paul answered with five straight points and an assist to tie it at 90 with 6:32 left. Paul then had eight consecutive points for a 98-93 lead.
The Suns took their biggest lead, 66-53, early in the third quarter, but New Orleans used a 12-0 run over the next 2:43 to pull to 66-63. McCollum was the catalyst with a 3-pointer and a layup, and New Orleans pulled to 81-79 entering the fourth quarter on the strength of a 31-22 third-period run.
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McCollum’s 16-foot jumper with 5:13 left in the first half tied it at 43, but while the ball was in the air, Pelicans forward Jaxson Hayes barreled into Jae Crowder, who was standing on the baseline near the basket. Hayes’ shoulder-to-chest foul was reviewed and earned him a Flagrant 2 foul and an ejection.
That dustup sparked a 16-5 Phoenix run to close the half, and the Suns led 59-48 at intermission.
Ayton, who was held to just 10 points in a Game 2 loss to New Orleans, had 21 points in the half on 10-of-14 shooting, with four of his baskets coming on feeds from Paul.
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Suns: SG Landry Shamet has the confidence of coach Monty Williams. “He the ability to score the ball and play-make, get downhill,” Williams said. “But defensively, he fights, and that’s something that we’ve noticed with him. He’ll make plays blocking shots at the rim. He’ll stick his nose in there to rebound on the backside. So he’s been a guy that we’ve been able to rely on in situations like this.” He had five points, missing all five of his 3-point attempts.
Pelicans: Reserve PG Devonte Graham, who has struggled offensively, had 11 first-points, including three 3-pointers. … Coach Willie Green said he could sense a growing momentum among Pelicans fans in what is normally considered a football city. “We’re thankful and grateful for our fans and the support that we’ve been getting,” he said. “We’re trying to put a team forward that represents the city well, and I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think people can feel that.”