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Paul, Ayton lead Booker-less Suns past Pelicans

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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.

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 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.

Chris Paul drives to the basket during the Suns’ Game 3 win over the Pelicans.
NBAE via Getty Images

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.

Deandre Ayton (22) finished with a game-high 28 points.
Deandre Ayton (22) finished with a game-high 28 points.
Getty Images

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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