The Phoenix Suns squeaked by the New Orleans Pelicans, 74-72, thanks to a missed jumper by Tyreke Evans with 2.6 seconds left. Brandan Wright was the player of the game for the Suns, with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocks.
It was a really ugly game. The victors made only 34% of their shots, and scored a season-low 12 points in the third quarter. The 74 points tied for the 46-year franchise low in a win.
"I think it was a throwback night to the 30's, wasn't it?" the coach quipped after the win. "When the scores were 50-50. Yeah, it wasn't a pretty game."
Eric Bledsoe, who'd been shooting 50% since the All-Star Break, made only 2 of 15 shots and dished out just 2 assists. The Morris brothers converted only 6 of 26 shots. The whole team made only 2 of 22 three point attempts.
"That's another tough thing when you're not making any three's," Hornacek said. "I think the next guy feels a little pressure, ‘We haven't made them, I've got to make it.' It just kind of snowballed there. We've just got to keep firing. When you've got the shot I thought Marcus had late in the game there - it was a play on a timeout, we were going to throw it to him and then look inside to Markieff or Brandan flash him. But Marcus was so wide open when he came off there, he took the shot and it was right on line, just a little long."
Yet the Suns WON THE GAME.
"I think defensively, our guys got after it," Hornacek said. "We made it difficult. They got some open ones maybe late, but for the most part, our guys did a good job defensively. We just couldn't get the ball in the hole."
The Suns grabbed 57 rebounds and allowed only 6 second chance points all night, taking advantage of the cold-shooting Pelicans (37.8% shooting). Three Suns had double-figure rebounds, including Marcus Morris' career high of 13, and all 5 starters had at least 8 rebounds apiece.
The Suns defense held NOLA to a season-low 34 first half points, a season-low 38 second-half points, and a season-low 72 total points for the game.
The player of the game for the Suns was Brandan Wright, who blocked 7 shots and altered the final attempt by Tyreke Evans to seal the Suns win. He also contributed 16 of the Suns 74 points, and grabbed 8 rebounds.
"I thought he did a great job," coach Hornacek said. "He was great the other night against the Knicks, and tonight. He's long, he's more active with blocked shots. He got a couple of shots that guys didn't think he was going to be able to get and he was able to block them. What was good, I think there was only once during the game where that the roller got behind and that's part credit to our guards who are fighting those pick-and-roll ball handlers to fight to get back. But there were times when he was challenging the shot, and still getting back in there for the rebound. That's activity that we love to get from him."
"It felt good," Wright said. "I've been a pretty decent shot blocker my whole career. It's always good to block seven of them and know the opponent didn't score."
Wright was just relieved it was in a Suns win.
"I'll say good defense to give us some credit," he said of whether it was bad offense or good defense by the Suns that led to NOLA's 72 points. "We played hard. We had two tough days of practice. We worked hard this week and we got the win."
Both teams were missing key players, though the Suns got the long end of that stick. New Orleans was missing Anthony Davis (ankle) and Ryan Anderson. Halfway through the game, they lost Omer Asik (calf strain) too. The Suns were missing Alex Len and Brandon Knight (ankles).
"Well I think early, he wasn't able to get to the basket," coach Hornacek said of Bledsoe's 2-15 shooting night. "That's what their plan was. Their plan was to try to jam it inside and not let us get any easy layups. Eric had a hard time finding a lane to get all the way in there. And then he just didn't make the shots. He typically makes those shots, he just didn't make them tonight."
Bledsoe wasn't giving any ground in the post game media session.
First, on Anthony Davis' absence making it easier to win.
"I mean, that's a really good team," he said. "One player pretty much doesn't make a team. If you play good and play hard- I think they were 4-1 without Anthony Davis. Now they're 4-2."
And then on his own awful shooting display.
"I played great defense," he responded. "I had 11 rebounds. I helped my teammates on the boards. Steals- I had a bunch of steals, too (4). So, if I'm not making shots, I don't worry about it because I do so much to help my team win, that I'm going to do whatever."
Keef, who made his last three shots in the fourth after starting 2-for-12, gave some credit to the Pelicans.
"We have those games where we can't score the basketball," he said. "We had our chances to crack them and put it away, but they stayed with us and fought hard. They fought real hard."
Keef and Mook had 7 assists between them, helping make up for the bad passing night of the Suns guards, who only totaled 4 assists among Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green.
The Suns won the game.
They are now 36-33, just 2.5 games back of the 8th spot with 13 games to play. The schedule is a killer, starting with a roadie against the Rockets (Suns are 0-3 so far this year) and then a home game against the Mavericks (the Suns are 2-0) on Saturday and Sunday.
The playoffs are not likely, but the team is not ready to give up the fight.
He applauded the team for finding a way to win.
"We are in a dogfight," Bledsoe said. "Even if games will be like this the rest of the season, we just got to go out there and play the best we can and continue to play team defense."
*once again, thank to Evan Wendt for cleaning up the videos I took in the locker room.