New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns 4/26/22: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Betting Odds, Live Stream

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns Matchup Preview (4/26/22)

The New Orleans Pelicans (2-2) travel to face the Phoenix Suns (2-2) in Game 5 of the First Round. The Pelicans won Game 4 118-103 and tied the series. Brandon Ingram produced 30 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists on 47.8 FG%. CJ McCollum added 18 points and 9 rebounds, but he had a 38 FG%. Jonas Valanciunas shined by contributing 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 assists on 60 FG%. Herb Jones played stellar defense (2 steals, 3 blocks) and managed 13 points. Jose Alvarado, Devonte’ Graham, Trey Murphy, and Larry Nance Jr didn’t light up the box score, but they played well and made winning plays. The two factors that won this game for the Pelicans were rebounding and free throws. New Orleans was +7 in offensive rebounds and gained second chance shots. They also shot a staggering 42 FTA and made 32 of them (76.2%). Phoenix only attempted 15 free throws and made 10, which means New Orleans derived 22 more points from the charity stripe. They may not get the same calls now that they are back in Phoenix, but they can still draw fouls by being aggressive in the paint. 

The only players who played well for the Suns were centers Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee. Ayton poured in 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while McGee contributed 14 points on 7/7 shooting. Chris Paul had 4 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, and 3 turnovers on 8 FGA. Cameron Johnson added 13 points on 3/7 from three, and Crowder scored 11 points. Bridges and Crowder both had 5 assists, yet they combined to go 1/5 from deep. Cameron Payne only had 1 assist in 17 minutes despite being the bench ball handler. Phoenix was 7/27 from three (25.9%) and couldn’t play disciplined defense. The Suns held a one-point lead at halftime, but the Pelicans outscored them 69-52 in the second half. Devin Booker is out for the rest of this series, so Phoenix will continue to rely on Ayton and Paul to lead the scoring charge. If the Pelicans pull off the upset, it would be one of the biggest playoff flops in years.

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Phoenix Suns Betting Odds

The current spread is -6.5 Suns despite them losing by 15 points in Game 4. I am going with the Suns to win the game, but the Pelicans to cover the spread. The series moves back to Phoenix, so the free throws will likely be more balanced in Game 5. Paul won’t score 4 points again, and I expect the Suns shooters to hit at a higher clip. However, the Pelicans have the offense and game plan to keep this within 6 points. Ingram, McCollum, and Valanciunas can all explode on offense, and Herb Jones is a defensive nightmare for the Suns. 

The over under for Game 5 is set at 215.5 points. In Games 3 and 4 (no Booker minutes), the teams combined for 225 and 221 points, respectively. I like the over to hit here because the Pelicans are scorching right now. Their team line is a 46/39/75 shooting split. The Suns are at a 51.2 FG% and 29.3 3PT%. Phoenix is going to shoot better from deep, which will bump up the total score. 

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TV Schedule

Date: 4/26/22
Time: 10:00 PM ET
Arena: Footprint Center – Phoenix, AZ
Channel: TNT

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New Orleans Pelicans Starting Lineup

PG: CJ McCollum
SG: Herbert Jones
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Jaxson Hayes
C: Jonas Valanciunas

New Orleans Pelicans Analysis

Herb Jones’ defense in Game 4 was exceptional and crucial for future success. He had 2 steals and 3 blocks because of his 7’0” wingspan, lightning-quick lateral movement, and quick anticipation. Chris Paul was absolutely suffocated when guarded by Jones; Paul couldn’t run the offense smoothly with Jones hounding him. Booker is out, so the Phoenix offense is relying entirely on Paul to create shots for himself and others. Bridges has some skill shooting off the dribble, but it’s not something the Suns can lean on for an entire game. Crowder, Johnson, and Ayton are dependent on Paul setting them up, and Jones took Paul out of the game. The head was cut off of the snake, so the Phoenix offense was severely struggling. New Orleans must assign Jones to Paul as much as they can in Game 5 to throw the Suns out of their rhythm. If Paul isn’t scoring, the Suns offense will be hard-pressed to find points. 

Jonas Valanciunas excelled in Game 4 and was a key reason they prevailed. He dominated when posting up Ayton and produced 26 points on 60 FG%. Valanciunas got to the line 11 times and put some fouls on the Suns. When the Phoenix defensive pressure was too much, he passed out to the perimeter and made the right play. Second chance points are crucial in playoff games, and Valanciunas grabbed 5 offensive rebounds for the Pelicans. His interior production balanced the perimeter-heavy offense and stretched the Suns defense thin. Phoenix defenders needed to help inside, but they couldn’t also stick to spot up shooters. When Valanciunas is clicking, the Pelicans offense is extremely dangerous. His defense wasn’t optimal, as Ayton scored 23 points on 78.5 FG%. However, he wasn’t terrible and competed when brought out to the perimeter on the pick and roll. 

Phoenix Suns Starting Lineup

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Cameron Johnson
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Deandre Ayton

Phoenix Suns Analysis

Are the Suns finally going to hit their three-point attempts in Game 5? Crowder, Bridges, Payne, and Shamet are a combined 5/48 (10.4%) from deep. As a team, Phoenix is shooting a combined 30.4 3PT% on open (4-6 feet from nearest defender) and wide open (6+ feet) 3PA. That ugly shooting cannot be blamed on great defense since it is only for shots where the player gets a clean look from three. Hopefully for the Suns, being in their home arena for Game 5 will help them break out of their shooting slump. The lack of free throws has also been a problem for Phoenix. They have a 0.241 FTr, which is the number of FTA per FGA. That ranks 15th out of the 16 playoff teams. If their threes are not falling and they don’t draw fouls by aggressively driving to the hoop, the Suns must be hyper-efficient around the rim and at mid-range jumpers in order to score. It’s definitely possible, but it leaves no margin for error. 

Even with their awful outside shooting, the Suns still have a 118.5 Offensive Rating, which is 5th of the 16 playoff teams. The usually reliable defense has fallen off a cliff against the Pelicans. The Suns have a 121.7 Defensive Rating for the playoffs, which is 15th of 16 teams. New Orleans is not taking many threes (15th in 3PA), but they are converting at a 39.4% clip. On corner threes (the easiest type), New Orleans is taking 4.8 3PA and shooting 47.4 3PT%. The Pelicans are forcing the Suns to stick to the three-point line, and it’s opening up the interior game for them. Phoenix needs to focus on controlling the glass and defending without fouling.

Braxton has been writing for Lineups since December 2021 with the majority of his articles focused on the NBA. He is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania where he has spent the last few years working with various UPenn athletics teams and contributing to the UPenn Sports Analytics Group.

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