NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Pelicans had a full and loud Smoothie King Center.
They had the momentum.
And the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns did not have star guard Devin Booker because of a hamstring injury.
But the Pelicans didn’t have it, looked like the No. 8 seed they are, and lost game three of of their NBA Playoffs opening round series, 114-111, in front of a capacity crowd of 17,791 to fall behind two games to one on Friday night.
New Orleans was close throughout the third and fourth quarters and led briefly, but Phoenix pulled away over the final five minutes for the win.
Center Deandre Ayton led Phoenix with 28 points and 17 rebounds as the Pelicans did not have an answer inside.
In the end, all the New Orleans fans – who didn’t exit – could muster was several “F-you Chris Paul” chants. Paul, the former New Orleans guard, scored 28 points with 14 assists. Forward Mikal Bridges added 17, and center Javale McGee scored 15.
Game Four will be at 9:30 p.m. eastern Sunday in New Orleans on TNT. Game Five will be in Phoenix on Tuesday.
Forward Brandon Igram led New Orleans with 34 points and seven rebounds. Guard CJ McCollum scored 30 points.
The Pelicans had apparently grabbed the momentum Tuesday with a 125-114 victory at Phoenix to tie the series at 1-1 as Booker left the game in the third quarter with 31 points after straining his hamstring. He could be out for as many as three weeks.
New Orleans led briefly early in the game but trailed 59-48 at the half. The Pelicans took their first lead of the second half at 74-73 with 3:34 to go in the third quarter on a jumper by Ingram.Their only other leads were by 86-84 with 9:45 left on an Alvarado three-pointer and 90-88 with 7:13 to go on an Alvarado jumper.