Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans 4/24/22: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Betting Odds, Live Stream
Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans Matchup Preview (4/24/22)
The Phoenix Suns (2-1) face the New Orleans Pelicans (1-2) in Game 4 of the First Round on Saturday night. The Suns won Game 3 without All-Star Devin Booker, who will miss the next couple of weeks. The 114-111 victory stole home court back for the Suns after they lost it in Game 2. Chris Paul was brilliant with 28 points, 4 rebounds, and 14 assists on 10/18 from the field. Deandre Ayton dominated down low by scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds on 13/20 from the field. Ayton turned in a great defensive performance too, as he recorded 3 steals, 1 block, and held Valanciunas to 6 points. Mikal Bridges played his usual excellent defense and contributed 17 points. Cameron Johnson replaced Booker in the starting lineup, but he only scored 8 points on 7 FGA. Reserve center JaVale McGee added 15 points on 7/8 shooting. The fact that Phoenix won despite shooting 4/26 (15.4%) from three shows how well-rounded they are. They were +16 in points off of turnovers and had a 50.6 FG%. If their three-point shooting is failing, Phoenix can always turn to paint and midrange shots.
The Pelicans missed a golden opportunity to take the series lead. They were up 93-92 with 5:41 left in the 4th, but the Suns are one of the best clutch teams in history. Brandon Ingram paced the Pelicans in scoring with 34 points on 11/19 shooting. CJ McCollum had 30 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists on 11/23 from the field. Jonas Valanciunas had a quiet night, as he went for 6 points and 11 rebounds on 1/5 shooting. Herbert Jones had 12 points and played suffocating perimeter defense. Off the bench, Devonte’ Graham added 12 points and 5 rebounds. New Orleans had 14 turnovers and shot 34.4 3PT%. They played Phoenix hard and deserve praise for their effort. If they can be disciplined with the ball and shoot well, then the Pelicans have a chance to steal Game 4 and make it a series.
Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans Betting Odds
The spread for Game 4 is -2.5 Suns, which is the same line as Game 3. I like the Suns to cover here and take a 3-1 series lead. Phoenix shot an awful 15.4 3PT% in Game 3. Bridges, Crowder, and Shamet combined to go 0/11 from three. I don’t expect that to occur again, and the Pelicans seemingly cannot stop the Paul/Ayton pick and roll. Losing Booker’s offense hurts, but Phoenix still trots out their elite defense. Ingram and McCollum were excellent, but the Pelicans still were not able to cover. I will take the Suns to cover here every time because they are a superior team with more experience. Barring injury, Phoenix should cover this frequently enough to make -105 odds on the spread look like a bargain.
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Time: 9:30 PM ET
Arena: Smoothie King Center – New Orleans, LA
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Phoenix Suns Starting Lineup
Phoenix Suns Analysis
The Paul/Ayton pick and roll was shredding the Pelicans all game. New Orleans was 24th defending the pick and roll ball handler and 22nd defending the roll man. Valanciunas is not mobile enough to defend the perimeter when Ayton sets the pick. Phoenix will continue to exploit this weakness until the Pelicans adjust. The Suns don’t lose too much production when Cameron Payne runs the offense either because he’s a solid ball handler. If Bridges, Johnson, and Crowder can hit their threes, the Pelicans will be forced into a difficult situation. They can either help inside or stick to perimeter shooters. Either way, the Suns will be able to get clean looks.
Mikal Bridges is a defensive weapon who must mark Brandon Ingram all game. Paul is the leader of the offense, but Bridges leads the defense. If Ingram isn’t scoring 25+ points, the Pelicans will find it hard to match the Suns offense. Bridges needs to continue contesting his shots and force him into tough looks. He cannot get into foul trouble though because his offense is needed with Booker out. Controlled, disciplined defense is what Bridges must provide.
New Orleans Pelicans Starting Lineup
New Orleans Pelicans Analysis
Valanciunas cannot repeat his Game 3 performance of 6 points and 11 rebounds. New Orleans needs interior production to force defenders to shade inside. This sagging by the defense will give spot up shooters more space to get the shot off cleanly. Valanciunas’ defense was atrocious also, as Ayton was killing him in the paint. If Ayton is defended well, the Suns offense will have inconsistent stretches. Herb Jones is a defensive menace on the perimeter who can limit Bridges. That leaves Paul as the only shot creator off the dribble for the Suns, and the Pelicans can win if that’s the case. However, it stems from Valanciunas containing Ayton in the paint. He can help himself defensively by being aggressive on the offensive end. If he puts Ayton in foul trouble, then he won’t have to deal with him on the court. McCollum and Ingram are going to score, but Valanciunas’ play on both ends of the court is the key for New Orleans.
Devonte’ Graham and Trey Murphy can swing this game by winning the bench minutes. Graham averaged 11.9 PPG this season, but he shot 36.3 FG%. He must turn in an efficient shooting night and not waste possessions by taking ridiculously hard shots. Graham’s growth will occur when he improves his shot selection and makes smarter decisions. If he can take good shots and run the bench offense, the Pelicans will gain a valuable weapon. One part of running the offense would be finding rookie Trey Murphy for catch and shoot threes. Murphy shot 38.2 3PT% this season, and he’s an elite spot up shooter. He can cut a Suns lead and bring the Pelicans back into the game by hitting his threes. With Graham and Murphy clicking, the Pelicans can win the valuable bench minutes.