NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Chris Paul had 15 points and a season-high 19 assists, spearheading an 11-point, fourth-quarter comeback in the Phoenix Suns’ 132-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
Paul, who rose to stardom with New Orleans after being drafted fourth overall in 2005, appeared to be gesturing that he owned the arena after hitting a step-back 3 that gave Phoenix a 118-107 lead with less than five minutes to go.
“I said, ‘I know this place. I know it.’ I do,” Paul said. “Some of the best years of my life was here in New Orleans playing in front of these fans. This always will be a special place for me for the rest of my life.”
At that point, the Suns had outscored the Pelicans 27-5 in the fourth quarter, with Paul scoring five and assisting on five other baskets during that pivotal surge.
“He’s orchestrating out there,” said Devin Booker, who scored 23 points. “He knows what’s going on before it even happens. … He did a good job of leading us, keeping our composure throughout the whole game and that fourth quarter was a work of art.”
New Orleans had no response down the stretch and both teams pulled all starters with 2:26 left, and the Suns went on to outscore the Pelicans 41-12 in the final period.
“That’s the resiliency and the relentless play that we’ve talked about,” said Suns coach Monty Williams, whose team squandered a 24-point lead in losing its previous game at home to the Brooklyn Nets. “It wasn’t going our way pretty much the whole game. You could just feel it was just a bit funky.
“We don’t give in. Chris never feels like he’s ever lost anything. So, when you have a guy like that who can will himself to success, it really gets contagious.”
Paul’s decisive 3, his third of the game, was one of 22 the Suns hit from deep on 39 attempts (56.4%). Jae Crowder hit six 3s on his way to 20 points, and Frank Kaminsky made five 3s for the bulk of his 17 points as the Suns won for the 10th time in 12 games.
Brandon Ingram scored 25 points for the Pelicans, who’ve lost five of six. Zion Williamson added 23, and his second alley-oop dunk of the night helped the Pelicans build what looked like a promising 102-91 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“It happened,” Williamson said of the Pelicans’ ensuing collaps. “We’ve just got to figure it out and hope we can prevent it from happening again. They hit tough shots. Hats off to Phoenix. They’re a great team. They had great ball-movement and they found good shots.”
Lonzo Ball hit six 3s and finished with 21 points and 12 assists to go with two blocks and three steals for New Orleans.
“We played three good quarters against a very, very good team that’s been on a good role and got dominated in the fourth,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We were stagnant. I probably should have had us in some other stuff offensively. We had a disastrous quarter. … We couldn’t stop them at the other end at all. Chris Paul just took the whole game over.”
Suns: Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds. … Cameron Johnson scored 13 points. … Shot 58% overall and had 38 assists on 51 made shots. … Converted 14 Pelicans turnovers into 24 points.
Pelicans: Ball’s double-double was his first this season. … Eric Bledsoe scored 12 points. … New Orleans shot 11 of 32 (34.4%) from 3-point range and 42 of 82 (51.2%) overall. … Rookie Kira Lewis Jr. missed all eight of his shots and finished with four assists, a rebound and a steal in 19 minutes.
The Suns made a point of noting how gratified they were to follow up a big blown lead against the Nets with a thoroughly dominant fourth-quarter comeback in New Orleans.
“I’m really happy that we bounced back,” Ayton said. “This team stuck together and we trust each other. Having each other’s back like we did in this game, it shows a lot. … We treat every loss like it’s a lesson. We learned our lesson.”
Suns: Visits Memphis on Saturday night before returning home for two games.
Pelicans: Host Boston on Sunday in the third of four straight games at home.
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