We officially have a series on our hands. The New Orleans Pelicans made a push late against the Phoenix Suns, in Game 2, and pulled out a 125-114 win over the No. 1-seeded Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Led by a 37-point performance from Brandon Ingram, and another 23 points from CJ McCollum, the Pelicans held off a Phoenix team that fought until the very end of the game. Not many people expected New Orleans to even win a game in this series, but now the Pelicans will be heading back to Louisiana with a win under their belt and momentum going into Game 3.
On the other end, the Suns really never were able to build up a big enough lead to blow this game wide open. But while this loss will leave a bad taste in Phoenix's mouth, the bigger concern is the health of Devin Booker, who left in the third quarter with right hamstring tightness. He didn't return to the game after putting up 31 points in the first half, and is expected to get an MRI on his injured hamstring.
Here are three takeaways from the Pelicans' Game 2 win over the Suns.
1. Brandon Ingram was unstoppable
There was a point early in the third quarter where Ingram looked like he was laboring a bit every trip up the floor. He was grimacing after every possession on offense and looked to favor one side as he gingerly moved around on defense. It was later discovered that he rolled his ankle at some point as he landed awkwardly after a jump shot.
Here's how the injury occurred:
As painful as that looked, it never kept Ingram out of the game for any significant amount of time, and it certainly didn't slow his production for the Pelicans. The Suns didn't have an answer for the versatile forward all night, ankle roll and all. He was drilling 3s, charging at the rim with great finesse and was making incredibly difficult shots from the midrange, too. Ingram's 10 points in the fourth quarter proved to be clutch for New Orleans as it fought tooth and nail for this win against the top-seeded Suns.
It really didn't matter who the Suns put in front of Ingram, he was torching every defender in sight. Ingram's game has always stood out because of his unique skill set at his size. He moves so gracefully across the floor, and his ability to score at all three levels makes him a tough assignment for even the best perimeter defender. He was feasting on smaller defenders down in the block, killing them with turnaround jumpers. If it wasn't that, then he was getting switches off of screens to create space and drill mid-range jumpers.
Ingram was just dominant from start to finish against the Suns, and Phoenix will have to figure out a way to contain him heading into Game 3, because right now it doesn't look like anyone is capable of slowing him down.
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2. All eyes on Devin Booker's hamstring injury
The Suns looked like they were going to run away with this game in large part due to Booker's 31 points in the first half. He simply looked unbothered through the first two quarters, raising the level of difficulty with every 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net. But after coming out of the game midway through the third quarter, many people began to notice that Booker wasn't on the bench. Prior to the start of the fourth quarter, Suns head coach Monty Williams said that there was a possibility that Booker was dealing with a right hamstring injury, which the team later confirmed was right hamstring tightness and listed him out for the remainder of the game.
Although it's not completely certain exactly when Booker suffered the injury, Williams said after the game that it likely happened as Booker was trying to go for a chase-down block in transition during the third quarter. He could be seen grimacing as he stumbled out of bounds, and Phoenix immediately called a timeout after that happened and removed him from the game.
Here's the play where Williams thinks the injury likely occurred:
It was a significant blow for the Suns, who severely missed Booker's elite shotmaking ability down the stretch as the Pelicans continued to have a stranglehold on the game. But while the Game 2 loss may sting right now for Phoenix, the long-term health of Booker is certainly the priority for this team going forward. Booker is expected to get an MRI on the hamstring to see the severity of the injury, per TNT, and we'll know more once those results are announced.
This isn't the first time Booker has dealt with a hamstring injury this season. Back in December, he missed seven games with a left hamstring strain, and he has had prior issues with his hamstrings over the course of his career. The Suns will hope that this injury isn't as severe as the one back in November, and that with the two days off between now and Game 3 on Friday he'll have enough time to rest and get ready for that matchup.
Booker being healthy is absolutely essential to the Suns' title hopes. If he has to miss significant time with this injury, it'll greatly hinder this team. While Phoenix has tons of talent up and down this roster, we saw in Game 2 that there really isn't another player on this team that possesses the kind of elite shotmaking skills that Booker has. If the Suns need a bucket they typically know they can rely on Booker to get them one, and without him on the floor during Game 2 Phoenix's offense got really stagnant, especially down the stretch. We'll have to wait and see how serious this injury is for Booker and the Suns.
3. The young guys of New Orleans stepping up
Ingram and McCollum did most of the heavy lifting for the Pelicans tonight, but they didn't secure this win for the Pelicans alone. Credit also needs to be given to the slew of young guys New Orleans has that didn't shy away from the moment in Game 2. Forward Jaxson Hayes provided a spark for the Pelicans at the start of the second half, showing off his freakish athleticism in transition for New Orleans. He had a couple of important blocks that kept the momentum from swinging in favor of the Suns, and didn't try to force anything on either end of the court.
Then there was the standout performance from rookie Herb Jones, who put up 14 points for New Orleans. In Game 1 it was rookie Trey Murphy III who finished the night with 14 points, and tonight Jones carried the torch for the rookies as he was getting it done on both ends of the floor. All season long Jones has been lauded for his defensive prowess, and while that was certainly on display in Game 2, what was even more impressive was his production on offense. He hasn't been known to be a consistent threat on that end of the floor, but tonight his contributions definitely made a difference for the Pelicans. Jones is typically left open on the perimeter, due to the fact that he shot just 33 percent from deep in the regular season. But he went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, as Phoenix dared him to shoot from far. It certainly didn't pan out the way the Suns wanted it to, and it'll now give Jones some confidence going forward in this series.
The young guys on the Pelicans showed a great deal of composure every time the Suns tried to make a run, and they just stayed the course and executed head coach Willie Green's plan to perfection. After climbing back from a big deficit in the Game 1 loss, and grinding out a win in the second matchup, these Pelicans look like they can put up a fight for the rest of the series.