Paul, Ayton help Booker-less Suns beat Pelicans 114-111

  • Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in New Orleans, Friday, April 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael DeMocker)

NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the Phoenix Suns overcame Devin Booker’s absence to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 114-111 on Friday night in Game 3 of the first-round series.

Deandre Ayton added 28 points and 17 rebounds to help the top-seeded Suns take a 2-1 series lead. Paul scored 15 of Phoenix’s first 23 points of the final quarter. He also had 14 assists.

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Booker strained his right hamstring Tuesday night after scoring 31 first-half points in a 125-114 home loss. He sat on the bench during Game 3.

Mikal Bridges had 17 points for the Suns. Backup center JaVale McGee scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting as the Suns hurt the Pelicans inside.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 34 points. CJ McCollum had 30.

Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.

Jose Alvarado kept the Pelicans in it in the fourth with seven consecutive points, but Paul answered with five straight points and an assist to tie it at 90 with 6:32 left. Paul then had eight consecutive points for a 98-93 lead.

The Suns took their biggest lead, 66-53, early in the third quarter, but New Orleans used a 12-0 run over the next 2:43 to pull to 66-63. McCollum was the catalyst with a 3-pointer and a layup, and New Orleans pulled to 81-79 entering the fourth quarter on the strength of a 31-22 third-period run.

McCollum’s 16-foot jumper with 5:13 left in the first half tied it at 43, but while the ball was in the air, Pelicans forward Jaxson Hayes barreled into Jae Crowder, who was standing on the baseline near the basket. Hayes’ shoulder-to-chest foul was reviewed and earned him a Flagrant 2 foul and an ejection.

That dustup sparked a 16-5 Phoenix run to close the half, and the Suns led 59-48 at intermission.

Ayton, who was held to just 10 points in a Game 2 loss to New Orleans, had 21 points in the half on 10-of-14 shooting, with four of his baskets coming on feeds from Paul.

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Suns: SG Landry Shamet has the confidence of coach Monty Williams. “He the ability to score the ball and play-make, get downhill,” Williams said. “But defensively, he fights, and that’s something that we’ve noticed with him. He’ll make plays blocking shots at the rim. He’ll stick his nose in there to rebound on the backside. So he’s been a guy that we’ve been able to rely on in situations like this.” He had five points, missing all five of his 3-point attempts.

Pelicans: Reserve PG Devonte Graham, who has struggled offensively, had 11 first-points, including three 3-pointers. … Coach Willie Green said he could sense a growing momentum among Pelicans fans in what is normally considered a football city. “We’re thankful and grateful for our fans and the support that we’ve been getting,” he said. “We’re trying to put a team forward that represents the city well, and I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think people can feel that.”

HAWKS 111, HEAT 110

ATLANTA — Trae Young hit a floater in the lane with 4.4 seconds left and Atlanta overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half to beat top-seeded Miami, cutting the Heat’s series lead to 2-1.

Jimmy Butler missed a jumper with 12.6 second left that could’ve given the Heat a three-point cushion. He missed again on an off-balance 3 at the buzzer with De’Andre Hunter in his face to give the Hawks a burst of hope in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday night in Atlanta.

P.J. Tucker led a 21-0 run in the third quarter that pushed the Heat to an 84-68 lead and seemingly on cruise control to a 3-0 lead. But Young and the Hawks would not let them get away.

The Heat also were dealing with an injury to point guard Kyle Lowry, who went out in the third quarter with a hamstring problem and did not return. He’ll undergo tests Saturday to determine the severity of the injury.

Young finished with 24 points despite another stout defensive effort by the Heat. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 18, Hunter 17 and three others scored in double figures to take some of the pressure off the star guard.

Coming off a 45-point effort in Game 3, Butler was held to 20 in this one and missed a golden chance to give Miami a stranglehold on the series. Tyler Herro led the Heat with 24 points, and Max Strus also had 20.

The start was delayed about 45 minutes after a suspicious package was found outside State Farm Arena before the game.

BUCKS 111, BULLS 81

CHICAGO — Grayson Allen made five 3-pointers and scored 22 points and Milwaukee dominated Chicago to take a 2-1 series lead without the injured Khris Middleton.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 18 points, Bobby Portis had 18 points and 16 rebounds and the defending champion Bucks made it look easy coming off two shaky performances at home.

Middleton is expected to miss the rest of the series after spraining his left knee in Wednesday night in a loss. Game 4 is Sunday in Chicago.

Antetokounmpo scored all but two of his points after the first quarter. The two-time MVP finished with nine assists and seven rebounds.

Nikola Vucevic led Chicago with 19 points.

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