PHOENIX — Mikal Bridges was enjoying his forty seventh minute of basketball on Tuesday night time when he leaped into the air, threw down an enormous two-handed jam and pulled himself up on the rim with a bit sneer for good measure.
He’s the do-everything man for these Phoenix Suns. And, no, he isn’t even near drained.
Bridges scored 31 factors and blocked 4 photographs in arguably the perfect sport of this professional profession, main the Suns over the New Orleans Pelicans 112-97 to take a 3-2 lead within the Western Conference first-round sequence.
“I’m ready to play tomorrow,” Bridges mentioned with an enormous grin on the postgame information convention. “I’m energized, my teammates keep me going. I’m itching my knee right now, talking about it. I’m ready, I love being out there with my teammates. They’re my best friends, it makes it way easier.”
Chris Paul added 22 factors and 11 assists, bouncing again from a subpar efficiency in Game 4. Deandre Ayton added 19 factors and 9 rebounds.
The Suns by no means trailed but additionally by no means completely pulled away till the ultimate couple of minutes towards the feisty Pelicans. Once once more, Phoenix discovered a solution to shut, enhancing to 50-0 this season when main after three quarters, together with 3-0 on this sequence.
Bridges closed the Suns’ scoring with two emphatic dunks within the remaining minute.
Brandon Ingram scored 22 factors and CJ McCollum added 21 for New Orleans, which was harm by a gradual begin and 15 turnovers.
“I just thought that we made some timely mistakes, starting with the turnovers,” Pelicans coach Willie Green mentioned. “Fifteen turnovers for 23 points, that fuels their team and that fuels their transition opportunities. That is an area where we know we have to be better.”
The Suns took an 89-78 lead into the ultimate quarter after Cameron Payne’s late 3-pointer. The Pelicans — simply 36-46 through the common season — pulled inside seven factors with lower than two minutes left, however Cameron Johnson threw down a one-handed jam on the following quick break to maintain the Suns in management.
Phoenix will attempt to clinch the sequence in Game 6 on Thursday in New Orleans. If the primary 5 video games are any indication, it won’t be straightforward.
It was an ironman efficiency for Bridges, who performed 47 of a attainable 48 minutes but by no means appeared drained. He made 12 of 17 photographs from the sector, blocked 4 photographs, grabbed 5 rebounds and had two steals.
The lanky 25-year-old — who was one in every of three finalists for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award — has by no means missed a sport in his four-year NBA profession, enjoying in 309 regular-season video games and 27 extra within the postseason.
“He doesn’t miss games, he guards the best players every night and then he has 31,” Paul mentioned.
Phoenix performed its third straight sport with out All-Star guard Devin Booker, who was nonetheless out with a strained proper hamstring that occurred in Game 2.
Phoenix led by as many as 17 through the second quarter earlier than settling for a 59-46 benefit. Paul had 16 factors earlier than the break whereas Ayton added 13. Ingram had 13 for the Pelicans.
“We have to change the way we start a game and come out with energy,” Pelicans heart Jonas Valanciunas mentioned. “If we didn’t have that struggle in the first half, it would have been a different game.
Paul was irritated postgame about a technical foul he received in the fourth quarter. It came at a crucial juncture: The Suns were leading just 100-92 with 4:39 left.
The point guard got the technical after being whistled for an eight-second violation. Paul claimed that all he said was “C’mon” at the scorer’s table because he was hoping for a review.
“It’s out of control, that’s ridiculous,” Paul said. “It is what it is. We try not to get fourth-quarter techs on our team. That’s a big deal.”
Speaking of displeasure with officials, Suns coach Monty Williams was fined $15,000 for publicly criticizing the officiating in Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Pelicans, the NBA announced before the game. The Pelicans had a 42-15 advantage in foul shots during Game 4, which the Suns lost.
Pelicans: Jose Alvarado was once again tough on defense, forcing the eight-second call in the fourth quarter against Paul, which resulted in a turnover and technical foul on Paul. … New Orleans shot just 5 of 25 (20%) from 3-point range.
Suns: Booker has been working out at the team’s practice facility, but it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to return. … Payne gave the Suns a boost with seven points in the first quarter. He averaged just 4.8 points through the first four games of the series. … Phoenix was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range before closing the first half by hitting 4 of 6.
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