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Frank Vogel previews matchup vs. Pelicans

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After not playing the New Orleans Pelicans since Dec. 17, 2022, the Phoenix Suns will finally square off against them again tonight.

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In this past game where Devin Booker scored 58 points in a 24-point comeback victory, the Suns (22-18) looked completely different. Really Booker and Josh Okogie are the only players from this 2022 matchup who remain in the Suns’ rotation.

With that being said, the Pelicans (25-17) had a Big 3 on their roster then with Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram (did not play in this past matchup) and still have them now. The Suns have since assembled their own Big 3 with Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.

Both teams are starting to find their grooves around their respective star trios with each team having won eight of their last 11 games. In this stretch, the Pelicans have the second-highest offensive rating in the NBA, while the Suns have the sixth best. In these 11 games, New Orleans is first in three-point percentage (43.7%), while the Suns are fifth (40.5%).

Phoenix is coming off a game in which they remarkably came back from down 22 points in the fourth quarter over the Kings Tuesday to pull off a 119-117 victory. The Pelicans cashed in a franchise-record 25 threes in their last game, a 132-112 victory over the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night. Grayson Allen tied his career high and the Suns’ franchise record with nine threes Tuesday, while Ingram hit seven threes for New Orleans Wednesday.

All of these stats exemplify the fact that it’s not just each team’s three stars contributing. The Pelicans have one of the best supporting casts in the NBA featuring the likes of Herb Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Trey Murphy, rookie Jordan Hawkins and others. The Suns are still working to get to this point, but did find something in their closing small-ball lineup Tuesday of Allen and Eric Gordon around the Big 3. Jusuf Nurkić is also really starting to settle into his role.

In eight games and 126 minutes total, Phoenix’s starting lineup of Booker, Beal, Allen, Durant and Nurkić has an offensive rating of 127.9 and a net rating of 14.4. 

The Pelicans’ starting lineup of McCollum, Jones, Ingram, Williamson and Valanciunas has an offensive rating of 117.3 in 276 minutes. Interestingly enough, they have a defensive rating of 119.4, so their net rating is actually -2.1 with the starters on the floor.

Suns’ coach Frank Vogel knows tonight will be an offensive battle. However, he is confident in his team.

“They gotta guard us,” Vogel said at Thursday’s practice. “They create some problems, for sure, with matchups and whatnot, and it’s something we’ve talked at length about. With all these things, we’ve got an offensive lineup that is equally as challenging to guard.”

With the Pelicans on a hot streak and currently sitting at fifth place in the Western Conference compared to eighth place for the Suns, Vogel has a lot of respect for New Orleans.

“They’re playing really good basketball,” Vogel said. “They made 25 threes last night against Charlotte, and if Brandon Ingram’s gonna make seven threes with everything else he can do, they’re a legit team. They’re big-time and a real concern. I would say they’re further along in their continuity than we are in their system because they’ve been together longer. I like our chances against anyone, but they’re playing great basketball.”

Tonight’s game tips off at 6 p.m. MST.

Throwback: Suns vs. Pelicans Showdown with Devin Booker’s 58-Point Thriller

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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