The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, who are good at beating bad teams
The Bad Guys: The New Orleans Pelicans, who thus far have been a bad team
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: 4:00 PM, Arizona Time
The Tube: Fox Sports AZ
The Talkbox: 620 KTAR
The Phoenix Suns will kick off a stretch of 8 road games in their next 10 with a matchup in New Orleans against the Pelicans. The Suns have continued to feast on below-average teams, most recently coming from 17 points down in Denver on the strength of another virtuoso performance from Brandon Knight (career-high 38 points).
It was Knight's third 30-point game in the last 6, as he continues to surpass expectations alongside fellow star guard Eric Bledsoe, who has now scored at least 20 points in 7 consecutive games.
The Suns' backcourt has been good enough to keep things afloat while they wait patiently for a third scoring option to emerge, as Markieff Morris has had a nightmare season thus far, shooting 36.8% from the field with a PER of 9.7 with his usual underwhelming impact on defense. Mirza Teletovic has been rounding into form off the bench with 3 double-digit scoring games during the last week, and with the steady hand of Jon Leuer, the Suns have still managed some useful production out of the power forward spot while we all wait for Morris to deliver.
Things have been anything but easy in the Big Easy for former Suns' head coach Alvin Gentry. Jrue Holiday has been held out of the second game of back-to-backs and is shooting a career-worst 39.8% from the field, Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole have all yet to suit up this season, Anthony Davis has continued to find new ways to get injured, Omer Asik has already missed five games and is currently shooting 1-6 from the field in 96 minutes, and Eric Gordon is their resident ironman with a team-leading 467 minutes played.
The result so far is a 29th-ranked defense (111.0 DRtg) and a 2-11 record.
There are a few glimmers of hope, however. They snapped the Spurs' six-game winning streak on Friday night with a 104-90 win at home behind 17 points and 13 assists from former Suns' fan-favorite Ish Smith, right as Holiday's minutes restrictions are nearing a close and Evans is preparing to return to action.
Per @JenHale504 Jrue Holiday's minutes are set to go up soon -- in about a week, week and a half.— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) November 21, 2015
Tyreke Evans thinks he can be back in a week.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) November 20, 2015
2-11 is a hell of a hole to dig out from, but with superhuman Anthony Davis in tow and what appears to be a weakened Western Conference, don't count the Pelicans out just yet.
|G||Eric Bledsoe||Jrue Holiday|
|G||Brandon Knight||Eric Gordon|
|F||P.J. Tucker||Alonzo Gee|
|F||Markieff Morris||Anthony Davis|
|C||Tyson Chandler||Omer Asik|
Expect Gee to pick up Knight at some point with Gordon switching onto Tucker, and look for a few lobs thrown Chandler's way against the vertically-challenged Asik.
Light a candle for Kieff.
The Pelicans finally nailed down their first big win on Friday, and are well aware that they can't let up if they want to salvage any hopes of making a return trip to the playoffs. Still, they aren't exactly replete with healthy, talented NBA players at this point, and the Suns' guards are in such a groove that it's hard to see them putting up anything less than monster numbers against this porous Pelicans' defense.
The Suns will need to bag a win here before taking on the Spurs Monday, who will have had a few days off to digest their embarrassing loss to these same water birds.
Suns win 116-105.
Because there can never be enough articles written about Ish Smith, check out Oleh Kosel's piece on Ishmael's impact in New Orleans at our brother blog, The Bird Writes.