New Orleans Pelicans Guard Herbert Jones shoots over Phoenix Suns Guard Devin Booker in the NBA Wester Conference Playoffs at The Smoothie King Center on Thursday, Apr. 28, 2022. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher – editor@thegazebogazette.com

With the return of their Mississippi Gulf Coast native Devin Booker and the perfection of starting point guard Chris Paul, the New Orleans Pelicans could not overcome the opponent; Phoenix Suns, in Game 6 of the NBA’s Western Conference Playoffs 115-109 last Thursday, April 28 at The Smoothie King Center.

There were 22 lead changes in the game and nine ties as the Pelicans led by as many as 12, while the Suns biggest lead was seven.  Phoenix outshot the Pelicans from the field and from three, converting on 45-of-75 attempts (.600) from the floor and 8-of 20 from three (.400), but New Orleans had the lead all the way until the fourth period.

“We talked at halftime about the spirit of our team. I had a few personal things to say, but first note to the team (New Orleans) – they were playing with their heart and just playing harder than us,” expressed Phoenix Suns Head Basketball Coach Monty Williams.  “There were tons of emotions with this game. I’m glad we won, but I know what it’s like to be on the other side. I felt for Willie, but I’m  unbelievably elated for our team. It’s a weird back and forth with my heart, but I love this for our team.” 

Paul led the Suns with 33 points on a perfect 14-for-14 attempts, including 1-for-1 from three. Paul also added five rebounds, eight assists and one steal in the game. With his performance, Paul becomes the first player in NBA Playoffs history to shoot 1.000 from the floor on at least 14 attempts.

Despite the loss and end of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans overcome multiple steps of adversity.  Starting off the season 1-12, going through a few growing pains with a young roster, and being forced into two NBA play-in games, the Pelicans overcame everyone.

Very optimistic. I said it before, our future is bright. We’ll soak this up, a number of things. The playoff experience was great for us, elimination games, the play-in experience leading up to that and then this loss,” expressed Pelicans first year coach Willie Green. “We feel it, so like I told our guys in the  locker room, I will work this summer. It’s going to determine what happens next season, and we’ll be back in the gym getting it  in, getting ready.” 

New Orleans Pelicans Forward Brandon Ingram led the team with 21 points and notched his second double-double of the playoffs with a team-high 11 rebounds. Ingram 21 points marked his fifth 20-point game in the playoffs, currently tied for the most of such games in the NBA playoffs.

Rookie Guard Herbert Jones led the team with four steals tonight, while adding 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. He has totaled 64 points in the playoffs, the most by a rookie in postseason franchise history.

Finally, Pelicans Center Jonas Valančiūnas finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one steal. He totaled 86 rebounds over six playoff games this postseason, the most in the league up to this point. He is one of only five players since 2010 to reach 86 total rebounds in just the first six games of the playoffs (one of 15 players since 1999).

With the victory, the Phoenix Suns win the series 4-2 and take on the Dallas Mavericks. The Pelicans were the 16th eight seed in NBA history to force a Game 6, and the first since 2019.