What: Phoenix Suns (16-54) at New Orleans Pelicans (30-41)
When: 4:00 p.m. AZ
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Injuries: Suns - The Suns might again be without starting point guard Tyler Johnson, who is day-to-day with a sore right knee.
They will also be without T.J. Warren, who is sidelined with a bone bruise that is taking a suspiciously long amount of time to heal and appears to have been shut down for the season pending being traded this summer. Or it could just be a slow healing bone bruise.
And finally, Richaun Holmes is questionable with the right quad strain.
Pelicans - Jrue Holiday out (lower abdominal strain), E’Twaun Moore out (quad), Anthony Davis (not really out, but who knows if he plays and how much effort he’ll show if he does)
The Suns have recently not been embarrassing themselves on the court.
The Suns have won five of their past nine games despite playing the Eastern Conference leading Milwaukee Bucks and four of the top seven current playoff seeds in the West.
Among those five wins were shockers against the Bucks and Golden St. Warriors (ending an 18 game losing streak against the Dubs).
At least for the last three weeks, the Suns have shown if a team doesn’t show up ready to play they stand a good chance of getting beat by the Valley Boyz.
The Houston Rockets were no exception.
The Suns kept in the game all the way to the closing seconds when Josh Jackson missed two free throws with 24.6 seconds remaining that would have cut the Rockets’ lead to one point... then inexplicably decided not to foul for over 13 seconds (flashbacks of the November 8th game against the Boston Celtics where the Suns apparently didn’t know whether to foul or not).
I guess even with the Suns playing better, there’s plenty of work to do coaching these young guys up.
Devin Booker had 29 points and seven assists, but struggled from three point range (1-7), and DeAndre Ayton scored 17 and gobbled up 14 rebounds. Unfortunately, the two players had ball control issues, coughing up five and seven turnovers (12 total).
Kelly Oubre scored 17 points in the first half to finish with 22 on the game and filled up the stat sheet with five steals and two blocks. He also had one of the season’s worst fails on a double pump reverse dunk.
James Harden had another one of his routine other-worldly performances to propel the Rockets to the 108-102 victory, finishing with 41 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocks. Yawn.
I really thought he would make it as a pro when I was watching him at ASU, but it never occurred to me he would become one of the best players in NBA history.
The New Orleans Pelicans also played last night, losing 122-110 at home to the Portland Trail Blazers despite a monster night from Julius Randle. Randle poured in a career high 45 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists. He could have made it to 50 if he wasn’t 3-11 from the free throw line.
Randle has picked up the scoring load since Anthony Davis quit on his team. He is averaging 26.6 points over his last 10 games compared to 21.1 for the season. He will be a focal point for the Suns defense tonight. He had 22 points against the Suns in their last meeting, a 130-116 loss for the Suns at home, but they were of the physical, bruising variety and many of them came at the point where the game got away from the Suns. It will be interesting to see whether Holmes, who landed awkwardly and jarred his knee last night, will be able to help slow him down.
Randle has a $9 million dollar player option for next season which he will not be picking up. Dude’s getting paid.
Former Sun Elfrid Payton, thrust into a starting role due to Holiday’s injury, also recorded a triple-double of 14 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds against the Blazers. Thanks to a rash of recent injuries that popped up right at the point of the season where the Pelicans no longer had incentive to win more games... I’ll let you guess who their starters might be. Bonus points to anyone who gets it right without cheating.
Devin Booker has been playing strong during the Suns recent resurgence, averaging 27.6 points and 6.8 assists over his last 10 games.
The biggest difference in the Suns team now compared to earlier this season, however, has been the additions of Kelly Oubre and Tyler Johnson. Booker and Ayton finally have a little help with these two in the fold. Oubre brings ferocity and Johnson is a calming presence. They provide characteristics personality wise that the team just didn’t have before.
Both teams are on back-to-backs, although the Pelicans didn’t have to travel, so it’s possible that dead legs might lead to a bad overall shooting night.
The Suns will look to bounce back tonight, as they appear to be a team trying to finish strong this season as opposed to the ones who were intentionally losing down the stretch the last few years.
The Suns will close out their season series against the Pelicans on April 5th.