Goran Dragic set a new career high with points (40) despite barely starting the game due to a bad ankle that clearly bothered him. Yet he knew the Suns needed a win, and he delivered.

The Phoenix Suns forgot to bring their defense to the game, and nearly allowed the Pelicans to take the upset. But then a little D (defense) and a lot D (Dragic) led the Suns to a big win.

Not-an-All-Star Goran Dragic set a new career high for the third week in a row, reaching 40 points. Dragic also had 5 assists and 2 rebounds along with his points. On a bum ankle. That was clearly hurting.

Markieff Morris was a beast with huge cajones 18 points going against the trees (thin as they were) on the Pelicans front line, to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Morris spent a good deal of the night boxing Anthony Davis out of reach of the boards while other Suns grabbed the (too rare) Pelicans misses.

Anthony Davis of the Pelicans is a superstar, folks. He so smooth offensively and defensively that you have to wonder how all that skill went to just one player. He had 28 points and filled up the stat sheet in many other ways as well. A true talent.

But the Suns won. And that's what matters.

The game ended with the crowd chanting "MVP MVP MVP MVP" when Goran took free throws to put the Suns up 112-102.

They did it again when he went to the line to close the game. "MVP MVP MVP MVP"


Game log

In recent games, the Suns have been getting killed in the first quarter to the tune of 6+ point deficits. Tonight, they started really slow, getting down 11-2, before waking up to take the lead late in the first on a limping Dragon breathing fire and a streaky-shooting Frye making a couple of open shots.

"I don't want to just be a stupid, non-making jump shooter," he said during slump earlier in the season. Frye didn't just shoot threes in the first quarter this time. He pulled down three contested rebounds as well, even amid the long, skinny trees of Anthony Davis and Alexis Ajinca.

The Suns still gave up a lot of first quarter points, but at least the Suns kept pace this time. The nearly-out Dragic, who was a last-minute decision to play, scored 15 points in the first quarter alone. Hello Brian Roberts!

15 points in the first quarter alone!

And when the second quarter started, it was clear that they felt comfortable again. The Morris twins and Ish Smith played with Archie Goodwin and Gerald Green.

The Suns didn't take a big lead, but held on while the Pelicans rotated Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans in with the backups. Evans didn't have a good start, but he made an important three to tie the game at 40-40 when the clock was running down.

Still not a game featuring much defense.

When Dragic and Plumlee returned, the Suns offense stagnated a bit until they got aggressive and took some inside shots to draw fouls. Markieff Morris collected 7 points in the second to bring his total to 11 points and 3 assists at halftime.

Still, the Pelicans stayed in it with good drives to score by Tyreke Evans and a jumper by Eric Gordon.

The Suns went into halftime with a slim 2-point lead against a team that is losers of 5 straight and 8 of 9. The Suns just weren't playing good team D. The Pellies just had way too many open shots.

By halftime, the Pelicans had 17 fast break points despite averaging only 14 per game on the season. They shot 57% on all field goals, despite averaging only 45.6%.

Clearly, the Suns won't win many games allowing that kind of shooting.

The second half started like the first, with the Pelicans more engaged than the Suns. Oh, and Anthony Davis is good player I guess. The dude is money from 15 feet out and deters so many drives to the basket that teams need to scramble.

Unfortunately, the Suns did not come out in the third quarter with any fire or offensive game plan while the Pelicans came out just the opposite. The Pelicans went on a 13-0 run at one point and eventually took a 77-66 lead before the Suns woke up with some scoring. The run was timed with Ish Smith's re-entry into the game.

Dragic scored the last 5 points of a 15-4 Suns run that tied the game at 81 while the Suns finally played some D for the first time all night.

Dragic scored 12 more points in the quarter.

New Orleans STILL shooting 57% before the fourth started, and they made their first five shots of the 4th. But the Pellies weren't doing anything to stop the Suns either, and the Suns only needed two stops out of seven to take a three-point lead.

When Goran Dragic banked in a three from the top of the key, the Suns run was 37-15 since the Pellies took their biggest lead (11 points).

Me: "The Pelicans are imploding."

Kevin Zimmerman (Valleyofthesuns.com): "That's probably why they have a crappy record."

The game ended with the crowd chanting 'MVP MVP MVP' when Dragic finished the game with free throws.

PHOENIX — Anthony Davis will play Friday against the Phoenix Suns having recovered well from a tweaked shoulder, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. Goran Dragic tested out his bum...

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In advance of the late night game on ESPN, it looks like the Pelicans will play their All-Star after injuring a shoulder in the last game on a rebound attempt, while according to Matt Peterson of suns.com Dragic will start.

Based on pregame interviews with the coaches, it looks like the Suns will be overmatched in terms of raw talent tonight on ESPN.

First, Jeff Hornacek expressed pessimism that Goran Dragic would play tonight.

"You know Goran, he is going to want to go," Hornacek said. "Again, we cannot rush him back and have it continue to aggravate. We will try to get an honest answer out of him and see if he will go."

Then, I saw the Dragon walk down the hallway a few minutes later, limping slightly. It was 90 minutes before tipoff.

UPDATE: Per Matt Peterson of suns.com, Dragic will start for the Suns tonight. Phew!

To make matters worse, the Pelicans head coach Monty Williams declared Anthony Davis good to go to for the game tonight.

"He'll play tonight," Williams said. "He responded well to yesterday's workout and the shoot around."

On a lighter side, in response to a question whether he would make lineup changes with the Pellies in a 5-game losing streak, Williams said he wanted Tyreke Evans to start "as long as he gets out of the elevator he's stuck in."

Ummm... wut?

"He's stuck in the elevator and they can't get him out," Williams said. "That's life. A bit extreme at times."

did I hear that right?

Williams said he was just being as honest as possible, so that if we saw Evans show up just a few minutes before the game starts not to start rumors that weren't true. Evans has been playing poorly lately, and Williams didn't want that compounded by rumors of not caring enough to get to the arena with other players.

UPDATE: Evans made it to the arena, and will start for the Pelicans along with Davis

So anyway, the Pelicans are going to pull out all the stops to win tonight.

And the Suns might be starless once again.

Time: 8:30 p.m. MST TV: ESPN/FSA Two things Suns fans probably know but need to be said anyway: Phoenix desperately needs point guard Goran Dragic on the court because it also needs a win. Now...

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Just five days ago, the Phoenix Suns seemed a lock for the playoffs. Three tough losses later, the Suns have to win to even stay in playoff position.

What a difference a few days makes. After two solid months of remaining in playoff position in the West, the Phoenix Suns only needed a week to put all that work on rocky ground.

The Western Conference is a juggernaut with the ninth seed (Memphis Grizzlies) being a full 8 games over .500 and surging. The teams ahead of the Suns are a consistent 10+ games over .500 and surging as well.

The Phoenix Suns were playing well too, capped by a .600 record at 33-21 record after a pasting of the hated San Antonio Spurs at home last Friday (was it only last Friday this happened? It seems so long ago.), the next six of seven at home, and the impending return of Dragic's back court mate Eric Bledsoe for the playoff push.

The good times continued into the waning minutes of Sunday night's game against Houston, but then the wheels came off. The Suns lost at 11-point fourth quarter lead to Houston, then an 8-point fourth quarter lead to Minnesota, then got pasted by Utah. The last two losses were punctuated (a painful puncture) by Goran Dragic's twisted ankle that might linger into the upcoming games.

Now, with the Pelicans coming into town, the Suns need to win to keep hold of their 8th spot in the playoff chase.

The Opponent

The NOPs were supposed to be this year's Suns. After two post-Paul years of losing/tanking to high lotto picks, including budding superstar Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans spent money this summer to reach the playoffs and reap their just rewards for such self-imposed hardships.

First, they traded two #1 picks for a young All-Star point guard. Good in theory, for sure. Jrue Holiday is a quality young player, though maybe overpaid at $10+ per year. But then they swapped their incumbent PG for combo guard/small forward Tyreke Evans. Adding those guys to max-paid combo guard Eric Gordon proved to be a bad mix.

But all might have worked out for the Pellies if they'd gotten their front court right. Unfortunately, Ryan Anderson (their version of Channing Frye) got hurt and ruined the tenuous mix. Then Holiday got hurt. Then backup center Jason Smith.

To top all that off, the Pellies managed to horrify most of the kids with a new mascot that had to be replaced midseason with a softer version.

Later, an even scarier thing happened. What are they thinking in New Orleans?!?

Now the NOPs are fading back to their same position as a year ago, and may quickly decide it's better to be bad. Their top pick in the best draft in a decade is only protected to #5 and the Pellies are currently in the 8th lotto spot. But with their third best player lately being Brian Roberts, they may hit that fifth lotto spot after all.

Unfortunately, the Pellies have not been able to find that winning formula, with or without their health. They struggled to reach .500 when healthy, and now are careening with 5 straight losses and 7 losses in their last 8 games.

The Suns

Ah, the Suns. I already went into a lot up above, so now let's go into the Bright Side:

  • Archie Goodwin is playing like an NBA player with a bright future. He even made a 3 in the last game!
  • P.J. Tucker has been a beast on the boards, averaging nearly a double-double since the All-Star Break and 8.9 boards over his last 10 games
  • Gerald Green is averaging 19.4 points per game over his last 10
  • Goran Dragic is still playing like an All-Star
  • With a healthy Dragic, the Suns had a late lead against Minny. If he hadn't turned his ankle, the Rockets game might just be a blip on the radar
  • Dragic is day-to-day and McDonough, Babby and Hornacek all say he is most likely playing tonight

The Stats


The Lineups


The Key Matchup

The big key to the game is getting Goran Dragic on the floor effectively. If Dragic can be effective, the Suns should be able to take this win easily. The Pelicans are floundering.

Statistically, there are a few important keys:

  • Get off to a good start in the first quarter. The Suns have lost 5 of 9 home games, generally thanks to slow starts in the first quarter highlighted by had defense
  • Control the Pellies on the perimeter. They don't shoot the three often (29th in the league in 3-point attempt rate), but when they do they make a lot of them (38.5%)

The Prediction

There's all kinds of ways this game could go wrong.

Eric Gordon could decide that he wants to show the Suns what they almost had (which would have to be better than 15.8 points, 3.1 assists, 2.6 rebounds version in NOP land).

Tyreke Evans could suddenly decide he's the ROY version of Reke.

Anthony Davis could go for 30/15 and carry the team to a win.

But most likely, as long as Goran Dragic plays, the Suns will be able to pull this game out. The Suns beat the Pelicans both prior times this season, in November. Once in Phoenix, and once in New Orleans (when Bledsoe carried the Suns to a win with Dragic out).

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