Mikal Bridges joins the list of greats in getting the Phoenix Suns to win Game 5 over the New Orleans Pelicans

PHOENIX – Missing Devin Booker and with the New Orleans Pelicans putting heavy pressure on Chris Paul, the Phoenix Suns got a historic effort from Mikal Bridges to regain control of their first-round NBA playoff series with a 112-97 Game 5 win for a 3-2 lead.

Bridges had perhaps the best offensive and defensive play of his career as he finished with 31 points on 12-of-17 shots with four blocks and a theft. When the Suns were desperate for improved 3-point shooting, all four of Bridges made his attempts. Then there was his defense on the ball: The Pelicans were only 1-of-14 as Bridges and his long-arm and relentless efforts opposed their shots, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking. And he played all but 66 seconds of the game.

“We put him down [Bridges] at all, “said Suns coach Monty Williams.” We can not clone him, but we wish we could. And he has the energy to score offensively as well. “

Bridges ended the game with two emphatic dunks that showed no signs of fatigue, an energy flow crucial to the Suns. Booker missed his third game in a row due to a hamstring injury, and the Pelicans entered the fight to test Paul and his left hand.

Paul missed time earlier this season due to a left thumb injury and appeared to injure a finger on the same hand in the second quarter of Sunday’s match 4 loss. He did not score in that match after the first quarter. He taped several fingers together Sunday and then did so again Tuesday as the Pelicans played him hard on his right side, trying to force him to go left. They also pushed him at full speed, a tactic used throughout the series.

Williams said Paul was fully recovered but that he changed his game plan to ease some of the burden on the veteran’s point guard. The plan required Paul to bring the ball up to the floor less to save energy and dodge doubles, which the Pelicans used in effect in Game 4. Paul, who has a history of wrist and wrist injuries, showed no sign of anything bothering him. , as he scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half to help the Suns establish a lead.

“Seventeen years, the same thing,” Paul said of the Pelicans’ strategy. “I’ve been playing for a long time. That’s what most teams go for, picking you up on full track and doing all this differently.”

The Pelicans may need to come up with a game plan to control the Bridges in Thursday’s game 6. He was an important cog in everything the Suns did when he took his second most shots in a game this season. The Suns also found themselves in bad trouble with Cameron Payne and Jae Crowder limited, which further expanded Bridges’ role.

“Just playing hard, that’s the biggest thing. Just playing hard and playing for each other,” Bridges said.

Bridges played more against Pelicans star Brandon Ingram than any other time in the series, and Ingram was only 1-of-4 while Bridges defended him. Ingram scored 22 points but missed 12 of 19 shots. Bridges also strangled CJ McCollum, who was 1-of-9 with Bridges on. McCollum had 21 points but missed 15 out of 22 shots and shoots only 37% in the series, and Bridges has been the biggest reason for that.

But perhaps the most impressive way to put Bridges’ performance in context was this: There have only been seven players in history to have a 30-point game with four 3-pointers and four blocks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

It’s LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and now Bridges.

“Wow,” Bridges said when he was shown the list, “it’s crazy.”

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