by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

The return of the Mississippi Gulf Coast native; Phoenix Suns All-Star Guard Devin Booker, to battle the homestanding New Orleans Pelicans did not end up being the close basketball game it was hyped to be at the Smoothie King Center by winning 131-115.

Since adding quality guard C.J. McCollum to the roster before the All-Star break, New Orleans (28-41) has locked themselves in a battle for the 10th seed play-in for the Western Conference NBA playoffs.  The temporary loss of legendary point guard Chris Paul for the Suns and Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram made this game more evenly matched.

Phoenix (55-14) is currently the top seed in the Western Conference and has the best record in the National Basketball Association (NBA). With the win Tuesday, the Suns win the season series 3-1 over the New Orleans Pelicans for the year.

In the first half, Phoenix outshot New Orleans, converting 25-of-43 (.581) from the floor, 11-of-18 (.611) from three-point range and a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul stripe, while the Pelicans shot 25-of-47 (.532) from the field, 7-of-18 (.389) from behind the arc and 2-of-4 (.500) from the free throw line. In addition, the Suns only turned the ball over four times in the first half, while the Pelicans had nine miscues. 

The Suns shot the ball from behind the arc at an efficient rate, converting 18-of-34 (.529), while New Orleans only shot 12-of 34 (.353) from three-point range.

“My message was: Look, don’t hang our heads, we’re in a great spot. We came out and competed tonight. We played hard. We  made some mistakes and we’ll get back to practice and watch film and try to clean up some of those mistakes,” said New Orleans Pelicans Head Basketball Coach Willie Green.  “We’re also  grateful to have CJ (McCollum) back. He’s knocking off some rust as well. It’s just a part of adjusting. Now we’ve got to go on  the road and try to win games.” 

New Orleans turned the ball over 17 times, which led to 33 points for Phoenix, while the Suns only notched nine miscues that led to 13 points for the Pelicans.

Additionally, Phoenix was perfect from the free throw line tonight, hitting 15-of-15, while the Pelicans converted 17-of-24 (.708) from the foul stripe.

“We owe them, especially the way they came on our home court and did us bad,” Moss Point Alum Booker said.  “There are a lot of talented players over there.  They have a really talented group, but we wanted this one bad.”

Booker scored a game-high 27 points, converting 11-of-20 (.550) from the floor and 4-of-9 (.444) from three-point range, to go along with five rebounds, eight assists and two steals. 

New Orleans was led by Rookie Guard Herbert Jones scored 22 points, converting 7-of-11 (.636) from the floor, 3-of-6 (.500) from three-point range and a perfect 5- of-5 from the foul stripe. He added five boards and three steals.  Center Jonas Valančiūnas posted his 42nd double-double of the season, converting 8-of-14 (.571) from the floor, posting 17 points, 12 boards, three assists, one steal and a block.

The Pelicans next game is on the road against the San Antonio Spurs Friday evening.