Let’s start with this: Tonight’s Pelicans-Suns tilt was actually quite competitive, which is what happens when two evenly-matched teams. However, evenly-matched is a subjective term; Suns-Pelicans was not competitive in the same way as the two TNT games tonight, for instance.
The veterans played way too many minutes tonight: Jared Dudley played 20, P.J. Tucker 30 and even Leandro Barbosa got to the 20 mark. Tyler Ulis did not play. Hopefully all this playing time is giving opposing scouts all they need to see of the trade deadline candy.
Anthony Davis is a truly amazing player; at one point during the broadcast, Steve Albert noticed that Davis appeared uncomfortable “even though he has 23 points”. I actually agreed with Steve, until I went back and saw that AD had 11 points and 6 rebounds in the first half on 5-6 shooting.
If not for T.J. Warren’s two-way excellence, this one might have been out of reach for the Suns by halftime. He pitched in two each of steals and blocks, trying his best to kickstart the rusted engine of February basketball. While 3-7 on field goals is abysmal for most players who score 6 points in a half, somehow that line ended up actually looking good on Knight.
It was probably because he was about the only Sun who appeared interested in competing for the first 24 minutes.
Tyson Chandler was impressive in the second half, keeping the Pelicans in the game with his defense. He seemed to be around the ball on just about every decisive play. A near double-double in the second half alone shows his statistical impact, but fourth quarter plays like the block of an Anthony Davis jumper and forcing a jump ball really demonstrate his importance.
Warren continued to make plays for the team, but eventually even his mistakes hurt the Suns. On an inbounds play toward the very end of the game, Warren turned the ball over passing across the court. Color commentator Eddie Johnson noted that young players have to make sure their teammates are expecting the pass just as much as they must be decisive in making the pass. It’s just another example of the value of getting all of the youngsters on the court together as much as possible.
Unfortunately, the offensive and defensive dominance of Davis was too much for the Suns to overcome. His four blocks altered the tone of the game as the Suns tried to fight back. Jrue Holiday joined Davis to combine for 42 of the Pelicans’ 64 points in the second half, and an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter closed out the Suns.
Without Devin Booker (5-20 from the field) looking himself, the Suns didn’t have enough firepower to match that of the Pelicans tonight.