NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul’s homecoming ended Sunday night, very quietly.
The Pelicans held the Phoenix point guard to four points on 2-of-8 shooting with no trips to the free throw line as guard Jose Alvarado smothered him throughout in a 118-103 New Orleans victory with no expletives needed by the crowd of 17,000 at the Smoothie King Center.
No. 8 seed New Orleans evened the opening round series of the NBA Playoffs at 2-2. The series moves back to No. 1 seed Phoenix for Game 5 on Tuesday with Game 6 in New Orleans on Thursday.
Paul, who played for New Orleans from 2005-11, scored 28 with 14 assists in a Phoenix win on Friday night here as the home fans chanted “F-You, Chris Paul.” This time, a frustrated Paul drew a technical late in the game for arguing a call. And the New Orleans fans ended the game with chants of “Pels in six … Pels in six.”
It was Paul’s lowest point output since Oct. 23 in a 134-105 loss to Portland when he also scored four points. He still had 11 assists and two steals, but turned it over three times. Alvarado finished with five points and two steals, and the Pelicans’ fans also chanted his name.
New Orleans blew Phoenix away in the fourth quarter, opening up a 109-91 lead with under three minutes to go after taking an 84-74 lead into the final stanza. It was the second straight game Phoenix played without star guard Devin Booker because of a hamstring injury suffered in game two in Phoenix, and this time he was clearly missed.
Forward Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 30 points, and center Jonas Valanciunas scored 26 with 15 rebounds. Center Deandre Ayton led Phoenix with 23 points and eight rebounds. JaVale McGee added 14.
New Orleans outscored Phoenix, 35-23, in the third quarter to take its biggest lead of the game at the time, 84-74. Ingram sparked a late rally in the period with a dunk for a 77-70 advantage with 1:56 left. Devonte Graham popped a three-pointer for an 82-74 lead with 1:02 to go and followed with two free throws with 21.1 seconds remaining for the 10-point bulge.
The Pelicans trailed 51-49 at the half after surrendering a 20-10 run to the Suns over the final eight minutes of the second quarter.
New Orleans took a 39-31 lead with 8:42 to go in the first half on a floater by McCollum, who had 11 points at the break and finished with 18 and nine rebounds. Ingram led New Orleans with 14 in the first half. Valanciunas also had 11 points and six rebounds in the first half as the Pelicans established themselves inside – something they struggled with in the loss Friday night.
Ayton led Phoenix with 14 points and five rebounds in the first half.