Panzura postgame wrap: Suns 112, Pelicans 100

On paper, Tuesday’s game in Arizona looked like a mismatch, with the defending Western Conference champions hosting a struggling guest missing its two best players. For much of the first half, it was a one-sided affair, but in an unexpected direction, as New Orleans dominated. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the Suns methodically chipped away at a 20-point deficit, eventually taking control in the fourth quarter.

Despite playing competitively again, New Orleans couldn’t reach the win column. Along the way, the Pelicans also lost starting forward Herbert Jones to a third-quarter head injury. The visitors still led by double digits when Jones exited, but the Suns completely reversed the momentum in the second half.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

After struggling to hit shots for much of the night, Phoenix star guard Devin Booker hit a corner three, then stole the ball from New Orleans and threw down a reverse dunk on a fast break, putting Phoenix up by 10 points with 1:04 remaining.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Jonas Valanciunas posted his fifth 20-10 game of the young season, this time doing everything he could to try to lift New Orleans to a road win, notching 23 points and 14 rebounds. Phoenix’s interior defense swarmed him as the game progressed, but he still finished 9/16 from the field.

BY THE NUMBERS

36-18: Phoenix scoring edge in the fourth quarter.

14: Phoenix first-half turnovers. The Suns only had five in the second half, a big factor in the game turning in their favor.

17: New Orleans steals, led by four apiece from Devonte’ Graham and Garrett Temple. Temple did so in only 23 minutes of action.

REVISITING FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

GROUP PROJECT

In an excellent illustration of everyone chipping in, nine different Pelicans scored in the first half. Nearly as many players had at least one steal prior to intermission. New Orleans got the kind of collective effort it needed to have a chance to win, but couldn’t sustain it for 48 minutes.

SECOND-CHANCE BATTLE

No complaints about New Orleans’ effort or production on the offensive glass, as it reached 14 caroms at that end of the floor, against a very good defensive rebounding club. Trey Murphy III grabbed a big one with five-plus minutes remaining, making it a one-point game after his putback layup. Fellow reserve Jaxson Hayes registered four offensive boards.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Jones put his imprint on the game in the opening half, but was struck in the face inadvertently by Valanciunas and exited early in the third quarter. Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges continued his very strong start to 2021-22, supplying 22 important points on 9/15 shooting.

#PELSPOTWPOLL

It did not take long for appreciation to skyrocket of what Jonas Valanciunas has brought to the floor for New Orleans. In voting for the Week 2 Pelicans Player of the Week, the 6-foot-11 center garnered 55 percent of ballots, after he powered his way to multiple double-doubles, including a team-best 16.3 rebounds per game. As @MrFlipYaStimmy put it, “JV has been a beast. This is a different team from last season even though the record says otherwise. They are competitive and making conscious effort. Kudos to Willie Green.”

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