• May 28, 2023

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Pelicans maintain top spot in West after beating Suns again

There weren’t any fireworks on Sunday afternoon. No dustups after the buzzer.

The New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns left all of that behind after Friday night’s contest. Sunday’s game did take more time to decide though.

Suns guard Chris Paul sent the game into overtime with a bucket with 2.8 left to play in regulation but it was the Pelicans who prevailed in the extra period to take a 129-124 triumph and maintain their hold on the top spot in the Western Conference.

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, who tied his season high with 35 points, said being atop the West even in early December was important.

“We’re No. 1 in the West right now,” Williamson said. “I know to a lot of people that’s not a big deal because it’s still early in the season, but for us to have that ranking right now, that’s big. We want to not only hold on to it but build on it.”

Williamson had an opportunity to win the game in regulation after Paul’s basket, but his jumper didn’t fall before the horn sounded.

Both teams were looking for their first overtime victory this season. The Pelicans had dropped all three of their overtime games prior to Sunday while the Suns lost their only other game to Portland in the opening week of the season.

Williamson hit a basket to start the overtime period and the Suns responded with a Torrey Craig 3-pointer to take a brief lead, but the Pelicans answered with a 9-0 run to take control. The run was almost cut short though with 2:52 left when Williamson was called for a foul on Paul while the Suns guard was shooting a 3-pointer.

Pelicans coach Willie Green looked back at his bench and immediately challenged the call, saying Paul stuck his leg out as Williamson was flying by. After a review, officials overturned it to an offensive foul, giving Paul his sixth.

“We have a crew behind the bench that does a great job of taking a quick look at what happened, and they give me a demonstrative yes or no,” Green said. “And that one was a demonstrative yes.”

Once Paul fouled out, it meant Phoenix was without their key pieces. Deandre Ayton fouled out with 36.4 seconds left in regulation challenging a Williamson shot and Devin Booker missed the game with left hamstring tightness.

It was the seventh consecutive triumph for the Pelicans, who have surged to the top of the Western Conference, where Phoenix once resided. New Orleans improved to 18-8 while the Suns (16-11) were handed their fourth straight loss.

The Pelicans have won 12 of their past 14 games and after defeating the Suns in back-to-back contests. The Pelicans hope to continue their winning ways.

“I thought the last two games were high level,” Green said. “That team over there, that’s a good team. I know all those guys. I know what they’re about. They play hard. Well coached. Disciplined. For us to take them on our home floor and win these two games is huge for our program.”

The Pelicans won’t have to wait long to see the Suns again. After two games in Salt Lake City this week against the Utah Jazz, New Orleans travels to Phoenix on Saturday to wrap up the season series. The Suns defeated New Orleans 124-111 in Phoenix on Oct. 29.

Williamson and Brandon Ingram missed that game. Ingram (left big toe contusion) and forward Herb Jones (left ankle sprain) missed both the past two games.

Prior to Sunday’s game, Green stated he was “extremely hopeful” Ingram and Jones could return on the upcoming road trip.

Steve Carr

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