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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Chris Paul Pitches Perfect Game as Suns Eliminate Pelicans

Perfect games are associated with baseball, not basketball--and they are very rare in baseball--but Chris Paul authored a basketball version of a perfect game as his Phoenix Suns defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 115-109 to win their first round series, 4-2. Paul shot 14-14 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line en route to scoring a game-high 33 points. Paul set an NBA single game playoff record for most field goals without a miss, a record previously shared by Nene Hilario and Larry McNeill, who each made 12 field goals without a miss in a playoff game. Wilt Chamberlain once held the single game playoff record for most field goals without a miss (nine), but his record has been surpassed several times. Chamberlain still holds the single game regular season record for most field goals without a miss (18), and the regular season record for most field goals without a miss overall (35, from February 17-February 28, 1967).

With the outcome up for grabs entering the fourth quarter as New Orleans led 85-82, Paul scored 10 points and had three assists to orchestrate the Suns' offense and make sure that the upstart Pelicans did not extend the series to a seventh game. Paul performed inconsistently during this series, alternating great games with subpar games, but his game six perfection may never be matched. Paul's mastery of the midrange game combined with his slick ball handling make him very difficult to cover one on one; he must be trapped, preferably by taller defenders, and the trap must force him to pick up his dribble and give up the ball before he slithers his way into the midrange area, let alone the paint. Permitting Paul to dance with the ball and choose when/where to shoot or pass is basketball suicide.

Deandre Ayton was nearly perfect, shooting 10-12 from the field. He scored 22 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and passing for four assists. Mikal Bridges chipped in 18 points on 7-12 field goal shooting. Devin Booker returned to action after a hamstring injury sidelined him for the second half of game two, plus all of games three through five. He struggled to perform at his usual All-NBA caliber level, finishing with just 13 points on 5-12 field goal shooting, but his three point shot with 1:42 remaining gave the Suns a lead (106-104) that they never relinquished. 

The Pelicans' Brandon Ingram was the best player on the court for significant portions of this series. He led New Orleans with 21 points and 11 assists, but he shot just 8-19 from the field. Ingram had nine points on 4-10 field goal shooting in the fourth quarter, but that was not enough to overcome Paul's perfect game.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:28 PM



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