The Phoenix Suns fell to 18-15 and lost ground to the New Orleans Pelicans as their six game win streak was snapped at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans inside presence and clutch play of Tyreke Evans proved the difference in a tightly contested game.
The game started off with some bricks, air balls, missed free throws and shot clock violations. Very not smoothie. The teams combined to go 0-11 before Goran Dragic finally popped the lid off the rim about three minutes into the game. Alex Len picked up two quick fouls and scuffled on over to the bench. Growing pains for the Suns' precocious pivot man.
While Len was scuffling the Suns were shoveling and soon found themselves in a 18-8 hole. Markieff Morris, Eric Bledsoe and Dragic were 3-13 in the early going. This didn't start off as an inspired effort from the Suns...
Tyreke Evans, meanwhile, was playing like a man possessed. Evans was getting to the rim with ease and finished the quarter with 12 points. Ultimately, the Suns quarter was salvaged by a late barrage of points from the reserves. Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris all hit three pointers in the waning moments to cut the lead to six.
The Suns were very lucky to get to 25 after that abhorrent start.
Score: Pelicans 31, Suns 25
If you were watching the Suns broadcast on FSNAZ you were treated to the mellifluous tones of John Calipari gushing over his former proteges to start the second quarter. Calipari actually coached Tyreke Evans at Memphis before leaving for Kentucky where he had the privilege of instructing future NBA stars Eric Bledsoe and Anthony Davis (as well as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to name a few more). Coach Cal was actually not terrible.
Green was keeping the Suns close with his human torch routine and had 15 points and three triples off the bench in his first 10 minutes of action. The Suns finally knotted the game back up at 44 after a bumbled possession ended up with Marcus hitting a three despite him going from one corner baseline to the other corner baseline and back to the first corner baseline with the basketball. Of course, that was after Green originally delivered him the ball while he was laying on his back after Gerald
was tripped fell.
This part of the recap brought to you by Omer Asik sucking at free throws. The big man drew raucous cheers when he finally hit a free throw after missing his first five. The Pelicans were getting to the charity stripe, but were an embarrassing 7-15 at this point.
Then, in typical 2014 Suns fashion, Marcus picked up a technical foul with just six seconds left in the half. Marcus (4) is chasing his brother Markieff (6) and Bledsoe (6). I don't know what is worse, that the Suns are trying to lead the league in technical fouls, or that they are neck and neck with the repugnant Clippers. You're better than that, Suns. Hopefully 2015 brings less hostility.
Oh well, the stupid tech gave the Pelicans a two point lead at the break.
Score: Pelicans 55, Suns 53
The Suns took a brief three point lead (62-59) early in the quarter before New Orleans yo-yoed back in front behind eight points from Jrue Holiday in 41 seconds. That wasn't particularly helpful.
Phoenix was basically doing its best job of not playing defense through the first half of the quarter, but blistering three point shooting (9-17) was keeping them in it. Then, a flurry of offense from Phoenix and a couple of stops led to a 9-0 run and the Suns led 75-73. Not to be outdone by Holiday, Goran already had 11 of his own in the period while serving as the catalyst for the resurgence.
The Suns led by as many as four late in the period, but the pertinacious Pelicans pulled back ahead with more points in the paint. New Orleans led 50-34 in that category and were +14 in free throw attempts. In other words, they were the aggressor.
Both Morris brothers managed to make it through the period without a technical foul.
Score: Pelicans 81, Suns 79
Time for the Suns to shine. Miles Plumlee was doing his best with a couple putbacks, but the Pelicans responded with Ryan Anderson making the most wide open three point shot in the history of the NBA.
Anthony Davis got his obligatory MVP chants from the crowd when he stepped to the line and hit two free throws to extend his team's lead to 88-83. Pelicans up to +17 on free throw attempts (23-6).
Anderson was perfecting the coveted role of stretch four and decided not to miss any shots. His 8-8 effort from the field with three triples was proving to be a nettlesome obstacle.
With the Suns down 95-90 Jeff Hornacek went to the trident attack and inserted Thomas back in the lineup alongside Eric and Goran. The Suns immediately responded by tying the game.
Then the law of averages caught up to Mr. Anderson. He clanked a couple shots and a free throw by Dragic put the Suns back in front 98-97 with just over three minutes remaining.
Or did he. A review of a previous shot by Holiday overturned the ruling on the court and turned a two pointer into a three. The game was all tied up at 98.
After the teams traded baskets, Tyreke Evans was rewarded for taking a very bad fall away three pointer by getting a long rebound and a couple free throws after he lunged into P.J. Tucker. The Suns failed to get up a shot on the other end after a bad pass by Dragic and Evans hit another dagger on the next trip down to give the Pelicans a 104-100 lead. Much more judicious pull up jump shot by Tyreke this time.
Bledsoe made Dante Cunningham look clownish with a lightning quick cut to the basket to get the deficit back to two.
Then Evans managed to bounce in a floater in the lane to push it back to four with 17 seconds left. Phoenix caught the Pelicans off guard and Dragic streaked down the court for a layup that took just three seconds off the clock.
Phoenix had to foul, and who else... but Tyreke Evans... sunk two free throws. Bledsoe matched those on the other end. New Orleans turn again - Jimmer Fredette delivers.
The Suns last chance heave from three by Isaiah Thomas missed badly and Phoenix fell just short.
Bye bye win streak.
Final Score: Pelicans 110, Suns 106
Asik probably wishes he could dunk free throws.
It's amusing watching Austin Rivers attempt to play basketball.
Kieff. Mid. Wet.
Ann Meyers-Drysdale thinks that Markieff Morris is important as a defensive presence for the Suns.
Anthony Davis alters shots without even trying to block them.
That pot pie looks good.
We needed more perimeter presence.
Player of the Game:
Tyreke Evans. He got things rolling for the Pelicans with 12 first quarter points and played the role of closer with eight points in the final 1:31 that fended off a Phoenix rally.
Evans finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He is not my favorite person right now.
The bench. The Suns' subs crawled out of the hole the starters dug to start the game. Led by Green's 15 points the reserves outscored the starters 28-25 in the first half.
Three point shooting is the Suns great equalizer. It helped keep them in the game as the team hit 9-17 from deep before missing their last four attempts (including a desperation heave). However, the Suns didn't keep going to a dry well and shoot themselves out of the game. Phoenix finally got aggressive late in the game, got good looks at the basket and made it to the free throw line. The Suns played well enough to win, Tyreke Evans just wouldn't miss.
The Suns basically lost to a team with four and a half players. Babbitt, Cunningham, Rivers and Fredette predictably played like garbage, but the Suns managed to give up big nights to all of the real NBA players on the Pelicans.
Alex Len got into early foul trouble and never got into the rhythm of the game. Thomas joined him on the zero impact squad.
The Suns got bullied. They got beat 58-48 on points in the paint, were outrebounded 49-38, ended up -10 on free throw attempts (29-19) and allowed the Pelicans to shoot 51.9% from the field. That's pretty much total domination. Looking at those numbers it's pretty amazing the Suns almost won this game.
Hopefully this one doesn't come back to haunt the Suns at the end of the season. New Orleans now has a 1-0 lead in the three game season series and inched closer to Phoenix in the standings.
Tomorrow night's game at Oklahoma City becomes that much more important with the Thunder also chasing and similarly ahead of the Suns 1-0 this season.
Let's shake this one off. Happy New Years everybody!