The Phoenix Suns dropped Game 4 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night, which evened their Western Conference playoff series to one game apiece, and Suns head coach Monty Williams can point to a lot of factors when looking at the loss.
For starters, the game was point guard Chris Paul’s worst playoff performance of his career, scoring just 4 points in a game where Paul is sorely needed, as the Suns are already playing with top-scorer Devin Booker.
But Williams is instead looking at the 17-2 free throw disparity in the first half in which the Suns were called for 12 more fouls in what proved to be a physical playoff game.
“You can slice it any way you want to,” Williams said, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “In a playoff game that physical, [the disparity] is amazing. Coaches shouldn’t have to come up to the microphone and feel like they’re going to get their heads cut off for speaking the truth.”
New Orleans planned to test the Suns interior and it worked with Pelicans’ starters Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas combined to shoot 21 free throws. Ingram finished with 30 points while Valanciunas dropped 26.
“It’s not like we don’t attack the basket,” Williams said. “They outplayed us; they deserve to win. That’s a free throw disparity that you have to look at … it’s hard [to] swallow.”
“It’s like the old NBA, isn’t it?” Paul said. “I asked one of the refs one time, ‘Are we playing in the old NBA or the new NBA?’ I was fortunate enough to play in both of them; we just have to figure out which one it’s going to be.”
“We were being aggressive. … They dominated the paint last game,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “Had 64 points in the paint. So we were well aware that we had to do better in that area.”
Booker is still recovering from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the last two games, and there is no update regarding if he will be available for Game 5 on Tuesday.