PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Paul played OK. Devin Booker had one of his least productive games in recent memory. The Suns’ best two players didn’t really do much in an intriguing matchup between two of the league’s rising teams.
And Phoenix still won by 25 points.
Jae Crowder scored a season-high 21 points, Cameron Johnson added 18 and the Suns showed off their newfound depth by rolling to a 111-86 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.
“It’s a team game, it’s not 1 v 1,” Suns forward Mikal Bridges said. “It’s five guys. We’re getting better every day.”
The Suns broke the game open by outscoring the Pelicans 35-15 in the second quarter to take a 66-44 advantage into the break. Second-year coach Monty Williams said his team’s stellar defense sparked the avalanche of points that buried New Orleans by halftime.
“They missed shots tonight once we started playing with force on the defensive end,” Williams said.
Phoenix turned its high-energy defense into a high-scoring offense. Even when the Suns weren’t getting good looks the shots were falling.
Crowder — in his first year with the Suns after helping the Heat to the NBA Finals last season — rattled home his fifth 3-pointer as the shot clock expired midway through the third quarter to push the Suns ahead 79-47. A frustrated coach Stan Van Gundy quickly called timeout for the Pelicans but the damage was already done.
“The middle two quarters, I don’t even know what to tell you,” Van Gundy said. “There was nothing. Nothing good, it wasn’t one thing. We couldn’t contain them on the dribble, we couldn’t handle the ball, their pressure really got us, the pace got us. They had a much higher energy level.”
Six Suns scored in double figures as they improved their record to 3-1. Deandre Ayton had 13 points and 12 rebounds, Bridges and Cameron Payne also added 13 points and Dario Saric scored 10.
“If you can win a game like that and only play Booker and Chris no more than 25 minutes, it gives the other guys confidence,” Williams said. “But we know who are two best players are. There’s no mistaking that.”
New Orleans fell to 2-2 this season. Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 20 points and 9 of 13 shooting from the field. Brandon Ingram had 13 points and Steven Adams added 11.
New Orleans shot just 3 of 24 from 3-point range. Phoenix made 19 3s.
Johnson was credited with two points after Williamson was called for goal-tending at the third quarter buzzer, which put the Suns ahead 100-61. Both teams played mostly reserves in the fourth quarter.
Phoenix earned its big halftime lead despite the backcourt of Paul and Booker combining for just seven points. Paul finished with nine points and nine assists while Booker had eight points.
Crowder made all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half and led the Suns with 15 points. Bridges and Ayton both had 11.
The Pelicans shot nearly 53 percent from the field in the first half but were just 1 of 11 on 3s. The Suns made nine 3s before the break.
Pelicans: Williamson shot 6 of 7 from the field in the first half and had 14 points.
Suns: Forward Dario Saric played in his first game this season. He missed the first three with right quad soreness. … Rookie forward Jalen Smith missed the game because of a sprained left ankle. … The Suns debuted their new uniforms that show ‘The Valley’ on the front and feature a bright desert sunset over a skyline on a black jersey.
“I’m not going to lie, I wish we could wear these jerseys the whole season,” Ayton said.
The Pelicans travel to face Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The Suns travel to face Utah on Thursday.
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