Mikal Bridges scored 31 points in a stellar all-around game.
Chris Paul had 22 points and 11 assists as the Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans 112-97 on Tuesday night to open a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.
The Suns never lost, but they also never fully walked away until the closing minutes against the Pelicans. Once again, Phoenix found a way to close, improving to 50-0 this season as they led past three quarters, including 3-0 in this series.
Bridges ended the Suns goal with two emphatic dunks in the last minute, capping what was arguably the best game of his pro career.
Brandon Ingram scored 22 points to lead the Pelicans. CJ McCollum added 21.
The Suns took a 89-78 lead after Cameron Payne’s late 3-pointer. The Pelicans – only 36-46 in the regular season – were within seven points with less than two minutes remaining, but Cameron Johnson threw down a one-handed jam on the quick break that followed to keep the Suns at bay.
Phoenix will look to clinch the series in Game 6 Thursday in New Orleans. If the first five games are any indication, it won’t be easy.
Paul rebounded from a sub-par Game 4 and Bridges showed why he was one of three finalists for league Defensive Player of the Year, blocking four shots.
It was also an ironman performance for Bridges, who played 47 of the possible 48 minutes without ever looking tired. He shot 12 of 17 from the field, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals.
Phoenix played his third game in a row without All-Star defender Devin Booker, who was still out with a strained right hamstring in the second leg.
The Suns took the lead 2-20 at the end of the first quarter. They looked more like the team that led the NBA with 64 regular season wins, playing tight defense and taking an extra pass in offense to get open shots.
Phoenix led 17th in the second quarter before settling a 59-46 advantage. Paul had 16 points from the break and Ayton added 13. Ingram was 13 for the Pelicans.