The Phoenix Suns forgot to bring their defense to the game, and nearly allowed the Pelicans to take the upset. But then a little D (defense) and a lot D (Dragic) led the Suns to a big win.
Not-an-All-Star Goran Dragic set a new career high for the third week in a row, reaching 40 points. Dragic also had 5 assists and 2 rebounds along with his points. On a bum ankle. That was clearly hurting.
Markieff Morris was a beast with huge cajones 18 points going against the trees (thin as they were) on the Pelicans front line, to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Morris spent a good deal of the night boxing Anthony Davis out of reach of the boards while other Suns grabbed the (too rare) Pelicans misses.
Anthony Davis of the Pelicans is a superstar, folks. He so smooth offensively and defensively that you have to wonder how all that skill went to just one player. He had 28 points and filled up the stat sheet in many other ways as well. A true talent.
But the Suns won. And that's what matters.
The game ended with the crowd chanting "MVP MVP MVP MVP" when Goran took free throws to put the Suns up 112-102.
They did it again when he went to the line to close the game. "MVP MVP MVP MVP"
In recent games, the Suns have been getting killed in the first quarter to the tune of 6+ point deficits. Tonight, they started really slow, getting down 11-2, before waking up to take the lead late in the first on a limping Dragon breathing fire and a streaky-shooting Frye making a couple of open shots.
"I don't want to just be a stupid, non-making jump shooter," he said during slump earlier in the season. Frye didn't just shoot threes in the first quarter this time. He pulled down three contested rebounds as well, even amid the long, skinny trees of Anthony Davis and Alexis Ajinca.
The Suns still gave up a lot of first quarter points, but at least the Suns kept pace this time. The nearly-out Dragic, who was a last-minute decision to play, scored 15 points in the first quarter alone. Hello Brian Roberts!
15 points in the first quarter alone!
And when the second quarter started, it was clear that they felt comfortable again. The Morris twins and Ish Smith played with Archie Goodwin and Gerald Green.
The Suns didn't take a big lead, but held on while the Pelicans rotated Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans in with the backups. Evans didn't have a good start, but he made an important three to tie the game at 40-40 when the clock was running down.
Still not a game featuring much defense.
When Dragic and Plumlee returned, the Suns offense stagnated a bit until they got aggressive and took some inside shots to draw fouls. Markieff Morris collected 7 points in the second to bring his total to 11 points and 3 assists at halftime.
Still, the Pelicans stayed in it with good drives to score by Tyreke Evans and a jumper by Eric Gordon.
The Suns went into halftime with a slim 2-point lead against a team that is losers of 5 straight and 8 of 9. The Suns just weren't playing good team D. The Pellies just had way too many open shots.
By halftime, the Pelicans had 17 fast break points despite averaging only 14 per game on the season. They shot 57% on all field goals, despite averaging only 45.6%.
Clearly, the Suns won't win many games allowing that kind of shooting.
The second half started like the first, with the Pelicans more engaged than the Suns. Oh, and Anthony Davis is good player I guess. The dude is money from 15 feet out and deters so many drives to the basket that teams need to scramble.
Unfortunately, the Suns did not come out in the third quarter with any fire or offensive game plan while the Pelicans came out just the opposite. The Pelicans went on a 13-0 run at one point and eventually took a 77-66 lead before the Suns woke up with some scoring. The run was timed with Ish Smith's re-entry into the game.
Dragic scored the last 5 points of a 15-4 Suns run that tied the game at 81 while the Suns finally played some D for the first time all night.
Dragic scored 12 more points in the quarter.
New Orleans STILL shooting 57% before the fourth started, and they made their first five shots of the 4th. But the Pellies weren't doing anything to stop the Suns either, and the Suns only needed two stops out of seven to take a three-point lead.
When Goran Dragic banked in a three from the top of the key, the Suns run was 37-15 since the Pellies took their biggest lead (11 points).
Me: "The Pelicans are imploding."
Kevin Zimmerman (Valleyofthesuns.com): "That's probably why they have a crappy record."
The game ended with the crowd chanting 'MVP MVP MVP' when Dragic finished the game with free throws.