The New Orleans Pelicans were completely outclassed by the Phoenix Suns. There's no beating around the bush surrounding that fact. Despite mounting a third-quarter comeback to cut the lead to eight, Chris Paul shut down their hopes with a crazy 4th quarter run. It was clear from the get-go that these two teams were on completely different levels.
However, amid the troubling loss, there's a glimmer of hope for the underdogs. Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas was unstoppable on the boards the entire game. The Lithuanian Lightning grabbed 25 huge boards for the team, 13 of which were offensive rebounds. That made him the first player to post 12 offensive and defensive rebounds in a single game since 1975. (via StatMuse)
Jonas Valanciunas tonight:
13 offensive rebounds
12 defensive rebounds
He is the first player with a 12/12 rebound game in the playoffs since 1975. pic.twitter.com/mXn4tdksN9
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 18, 2022
Despite boasting a solid center rotation with DeAndre Ayton and Javale McGee, the Suns couldn't keep Jonas Valanciunas from grabbing all the rebounds. His ability to keep the possession alive was one of the only things that were keeping the Pelicans in the game somehow. His 18 points also didn't hurt the team at all.
Moving forward, the Suns will likely gameplan around Valanciunas' rebounding and how to neutralize it. Phoenix neutralized the Pelicans in every aspect of the game except the boards in Game 1. That particular stat could be the thing that allows NOLA to sneak in a few upsets along the way.
However this series goes, this is already a successful season for the Pelicans. They started off a horrendous 0-13 in the season, and their playoffs dreams were all but dead at the start. However, the team kept it together and rallied behind head coach Willie Green and new acquisition CJ McCollum. With their momentum, it's not impossible for this team to keep it close against the title favorites.