by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher – editor@thegazebogazette.com

Playing in front of one of the loudest crowds in the history of The Smoothie King Center (aka. The Blender) on Sunday night, the home team; New Orleans Pelicans, played like they had all year, overcoming diversity.  The Pelicans beat the top-seeded Phoenix Suns 118-103 to tie the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference Playoff Series 2-2 and travel back on the road Tuesday night.

Beginning the season with a 1-12 record, New Orleans won two consecutive play-in games and set the playoff series even against Phoenix, the team with the best record in the NBA.  

“I thought we did solid. Like we were on point. Our game plan discipline was pretty good,” said New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Willie Green, who is in his first year with the team.  “They’re a tough team and they make  you bring it. We’re proud of our guys. The effort, the energy. We competed at a high level for 48 minutes.” 

There were seven lead changes and six ties in the contest while the Pelicans led by as many as 18, while the Suns biggest lead was three. New Orleans went on an 18-11 run over 4:32 in the first half to take an eight-point lead, their largest of the half (1:14 in the first quarter to 8:42 in the second).

However, The Suns closed out the first half with an 11-4 run over the last 4:42 of the second quarter to take a 51-49 lead going into halftime (4:42, 2nd quarter to 1:46, 2nd quarter).

With the second half belonging to them, the Pelicans closed out the third quarter with a 13-6 run to take an 84-74 lead heading into the fourth (last 3:07 of the third quarter).  Finally, New Orleans went on a 22-9 run over 5:42 in the fourth quarter to secure the win (7:37, 4th quarter to 1:55, 4th quarter). 

Pelicans Forward Brandon Ingram led the team with 30 points on 11-for-23 from the field, including 1-for-5 from three. 

Ingram has now scored 30-plus points in three-straight games, becoming the first player in franchise history with three consecutive 30-point games in the playoffs. 

New Orleans Center Jonas Valančiūnas recorded a playoff career high with 26 points, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor and notched his third double-double this postseason (23rd playoff career) with a team-high 15 rebounds, while adding four assists. He is now one of 10 players in the NBA with three double-doubles this postseason. 

With the win, the New Orleans Pelicans tie the series at 2-2, one of only 14 times that an eight seed has taken the series to 2-2 or better in the first four games since the NBA expanded the playoffs to 16 teams in 1984 – New Orleans is the first team since 2018 to accomplish the feat.