The New Orleans Pelicans tied the series with the Phoenix Suns as an 8-seed. This was possible because Chris Paul could not take over in game 4. The Point God got nervous by two beginners.
Just to put one thing aside. No, Scott Foster was not scheduled to referee Game 4 between New Orleans and Phoenix this time, but Chris Paul seemed just as nervous in the fourth quarter as he usually is when his personal enemy (0-14 in the playoffs, last game 2 of the current series) has the pipe in its mouth.
No, as the Suns lost 103: 118, it was the right opponents on the field that made Point God nervous. Namely the two rookies Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado. In games 1 and 3, CP3 had led the Suns to late victories, and this time everything was ready for it. The Pelicans led by 10 points after 36 minutes, but that lead was halved within a minute.
However, it did not get better for the guests, mainly because Paul could not keep the engine running. The barely 37-year-old hit his first two throws in the first quarter, but then only six more tickets had to be added. In addition, Paul made 2 turnovers in the fourth quarter, and the first one especially changed the dynamics of the game.
Alvarado actually succeeded that Paul could not get the ball over the halfway line in eight seconds – Smoothie King Center raged. So when Jonas Valanciunas scored 5 straight and Jae Crowder threw a throw into Herb Jones’ arms, CP3 got frustrated. His blow to the head of the Pels attackers could very well have led to expulsion, the referees left it with an obvious 1 error.
Herb Jones: Not a normal rooke
It was clear that things were underway between the two. Jones stuck with Paul most of the time and often pushed the boundaries of what is allowed, but Paul himself is not known for being a child of grief. “This boy always has fire,” Pelicans coach Willie Green ennobled her young husband, who won fans’ hearts in his first season.
It’s rare for a rookie to make a big impact defensively, Jones does – as the 35th choice. It feels like the 23-year-old is only arms and legs that he can use to his advantage at any time. Jones is extremely fast on his feet, has a lot of stability in his body and can at the same time jump like no other in the NBA.
“Not on Herb” is already a cult in New Orleans, most recently those who have only marginally or not at all followed the Pelicans see it. With an average of 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks over a rookie season, only twelve different players played before Jones (since 1982, Ben Simmons succeeded at the end of the 2017/18 season).
Game 4 saw all that again. Jones can switch, check guards despite a height of 2.01 meters, navigate around screens and above all fill a lot in a short time with his expansive steps. For a single player to block three hat tricks in a game is unheard of – Jones did it against the Suns and showcased all his assets in one scene. How many players can do that?
Chris Paul: Beaten on their own game
“When people start watching Pelicans matches, he will be on the All-Defense First Team,” said teammate CJ McCollum. “I’ve never seen a player so young, so smart and so focused. There are no limits to him.”
But it was not only Jones who bothered CP3, Alvarado can also be annoying with his playing style. Strictly speaking, he is a bit like Paul himself in this respect. Uncomfortable, always close to the opponent, always on the edge of legality and sometimes longer.
Not only the 8-second violation should bother CP3, but also Alvarado’s second forced loss of the ball as the guard hid a bit in the backcourt, as so often, and then grabbed the ball from behind like a cat. After just 54 games in the NBA, “Grand Theft Alvarado” has its signature game, it’s an achievement.
Especially when you consider that the 24-year-old was not even considered by the 30 teams in the draft and that in New Orleans he first had to go through the G-League before his two-way contract became a normal NBA contract was converted. Otherwise, he would not have been able to play in the playoffs.
Chris Paul is missing Devin Booker by his side
And now the same Alvarado put the accents in his 18 minutes to bring the Suns out of their rhythm. The visitors scored 29 points in the final quarter, but twelve of them came only during the final two minutes when both teams let the reserves out of the band.
“They were the aggressor today,” Paul said of the Pelicans’ performance without going into detail about his opponents. “They made the big plays, and they should be commended for that.” Of course, New Orleans also benefited enormously from the injury to Devin Booker, who will probably no longer be able to intervene in this series with his thigh injury.
In addition to the homogeneity, Phoenix’s strength was that a good defender was not enough against CP3 and Booker. The injury has made it easier to hide McCollum, while Paul has been given various tasks for 48 minutes. Often it’s Jones with his length, then again Alvarado with his bile.
Phoenix still has it in its own hands
“He came in and caused chaos,” Green said of Alvarado. “It’s so frustrating to play against him. But that’s what we have to play so hard match after match when we step onto the pitch.” This is how it goes when an 8-frog meets a 1-frog in turn one. In the case of this matchup, there were a total of 28 victories in between in the regular season.
The difference in talent was reduced somewhat by the Booker injury, and the Pelicans – also thanks to their rookies – simply play harder and more passionately than the Suns. It’s high in the history of the NBA Elias Idrætsbureau 30th time that the margin of victory is at least 25 matches in a playoff match.
The favorite won 28 times, the underdog won only once. Namely the legendary “We Believe” fighters who shocked the Dallas Mavericks around Dirk Nowitzki in 2007. Could a similar scenario threaten the Sun?
Phoenix still has the home advantage and thus all the cards at hand. New Orleans, however, has done its job. And who knows? Maybe the NBA will send Paul’s “darling” Scott Foster to another game in the series after all …
Suns vs. Pelicans: The series at a glance
|1||April 18||3 o’clock||Phoenix Suns||New Orleans Pelicans||110: 99|
|2||the 20th of April||4 o’clock||Phoenix Suns||New Orleans Pelicans||114: 125|
|3||23rd April||3.30||New Orleans Pelicans||Phoenix Suns||111: 114|
|4||April 25||3.30||New Orleans Pelicans||Phoenix Suns||118: 103|
|5||April 27||4 o’clock||Phoenix Suns||New Orleans Pelicans||–|
|6||April 29||TBD||New Orleans Pelicans||Phoenix Suns||–|
|7 *||May 1||TBD||Phoenix Suns||New Orleans Pelicans||–|