Phoenix Suns 101, New Orleans Pelicans 94 – Hero ball wins

PHOENIX — It wasn’t a pretty game, but for the Phoenix Suns it was one they’d easily take. Jeff Hornacek’s team overcame stagnant offense and a lead seemingly way too slim considering how poorly the New Orleans Pelicans were playing.

A sloppy first two quarters Sunday night in U.S. Airways Center finally led to a semblance of what everyone came to see. That would be basketball. The end result was a 101-94 Suns win.

Phoenix scored 29 third-quarter points and in the fourth used dagger three-pointers by Gerald Green and Goran Dragic – Green’s came as the shot-clock was expiring and Dragic’s came on a corner three when the shot clock was way too fresh — to pull away from the Pelicans.

Bledsoe drilled another “Why the hell not?” type of three with 1:30 left to give the Suns a 10-point advantage, their biggest of the night.

Dragic returned after missing nearly two weeks of action with a sprained ankle, but he came off the bench to cue even more comparisons to the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. Dragic scored 12 points and had three assists but looked a bit away from being 100 percent. His explosiveness wasn’t what it usually is, and he looked off balance trying to chase New Orleans speedy guards across screens and otherwise.

Still, Dragic was plenty effective.

He got additional bench help from Markieff Morris, who went 9-of-12 from the field for 23 points in yet another huge outing.

On to answering Dave Dulberg’s three pregame questions.

Can Channing Frye finally get off the schneid?

Not yet. Frye missed his first five shots and kept himself in the game by playing steady enough defense. Yet, he wasn’t quick enough to recover off the ball and stop New Orleans center Jason Smith, who led the Pelicans with 14 points in the first half and his all but one of his eight shot attempts. Smith led the Pelicans with 22 points on the night.

Is Frye on his way out with Markieff Morris streaking off the bench? Not yet, but when it comes down to it, the starting five won’t be the finishing five anyhow.

Over/Under 17 rebounds for the Morris Twins?

Take the under. Markieff Morris continued his streak by playing aggressive, interior-focused ball and then took it outside by hitting the Suns’ only three-pointer in the first half. He finished with 23 points off the bench, but the twins added five rebounds each.

While there were still plays that make you wonder – Bledsoe needing to tell Markieff to call for the ball with Jrue Holiday on Markieff’s back – the defensive effort and intensity was there. Markieff and Plumlee bullied second-year forward Anthony Davis, who still put in a solid 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.

It’s too soon to buy Morris pushing Frye out of the starting lineup with everything clicking — the Suns are 4-0 at home, so they might be taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it type of approach.

How will both teams fare from distance?

Quite poorly. Not well. Very badly.

For teams that seemingly want to space the floor and have the most talent in their backcourts, it was a game won in the paint. Phoenix went 0-for-11 until Markieff Morris hit a three-pointer with 32 second left in the second quarter, and it finished 7-for-22. Much of that 31.8 percent is thanks to those hero-ball shots in the fourth.

The Suns were at 3-for-15 shooting in the first three quarters.

The Pelicans were less apt to launch triples but also failed to get to the foul stripe once in the first half. They hit 4-of-13 on the night.

  • EBJM

    Not a single word about Plumlee’s FIVE blocked shots and 12 boards?

  • EBJM

    It’s now official, Markieff is a stud and Marcus was suppose to be the more offensively gifted player?

  • Russell’s Suns

    Markieff Morris, Plumlee, Gerald Green continue to impress. This team is really deep, and the defensive has been good.

    The Plan with the organization will change by Christmas time. The Suns have 6 first round picks and an expiring contract of Oakofar, they are best in position to land a star Power forward or star small forward.

  • Sunsn7

    We dont talk about defense in thses parts, E

  • Sunsn7

    Btw what happened to XcascadeX, Ben, and resident pessimist Bucky??

  • foreveris2long

    This is just incredible to see.I love the fact Coach chewed them out at half time and he got into g. Green when he was providing too much weak side help leaving his man open for a three, then he gave him a pat of encouragement. You have to love these guys because they play with a chip on their shoulder. Even Archie got going tonight. I love the fact we are no longer getting punked in the paint (thanks Plumlee and Markief). Did you see the block by Bledsoe on AD? Yikes!

  • BCrayZ

    This game was a block party.

    Even Archie has 3 in such a short time.

  • Auggie 5000

    Looking for Keef to crack the starting five soon. A page has been turned in his game… showing that he isn’t a fluke.

    Honestly I hope they don’t trade anyone right now. They are pretty solid at every position and it seems like they haven’t even hit a stride yet.

  • http://none Keith

    Well, that was a terrible article. Hero ball did not win this game. A total team effort on both ends of the floor did. Great, great win. Suns looking good, especially on D. Plumlee should be on one of the all defense teams.

  • noitallman

    Keif is better off coming off the bench no matter what. No need to put him in the starting lineup.

  • http://none Keith

    Agreed, noitall. Let him be the 6th man of the year and keep igniting our bench mob.

  • dave:f32

    A more accurate barometer of just how good our Suns are is when they play Heat, Nets, Pacers, Twolves, Raptors and Clippers, Lakers, and Mavericks… Young teams come on strong during the start of season/games but falter late. I def. like the improvements overall. Great job McD n Hornacek! Wiggins or Randle would greatly improve things, though.

  • dave:f32

    Oops how could i forget the Grizzlies and Warriors

  • http://none Keith

    Raptors, Lakers, Mavs? Not sure about those. Fringe playoff teams at best.

  • foreveris2long

    The Lakers without Kobe are not a playoff relevant team.

  • Chad

    Lakers mavs and raptors are just the kind of teams we’ve been beating lately. You can’t really say a bad word at the moment, they’ve won winnable games and narrowly lost against probably the best two teams in the conference. It’s incredible and we’ve been so clutch in the process- something we’ve never been that good at. It’s still early but all signs are good for the future.

  • Mel.

    The Mavs are actually looking pretty solid, early as it is: Ellis and Mayo are providing enough firepower to off-set the slight reduction in Dick and Caron’s numbers, but they do have a distinct “the wheels could fall off of this at any moment” air about them.

    As for the Lakers, I’ll weigh anchor until Bean comes back. As it stands, there isn’t a single team in the league that should be afraid of them, especially on the road. Makes me wonder how our old pal “LakeshowForLife” is holding up; last time he was trolling these boards was last year, when he announced that LAL would be hand-delivering a championship for Nash.

    Wonder why he hasn’t come bobbing up since…

  • Mel.

    And Chad, anybody who’s been watching this team for the last two years can appreciate exactly that point: we couldn’t even ensure consistent victories against the Bobcats, Pistons and Bucks during the godawful realities of the 2011-2013 Suns, let alone guarantee that anybody would show up for a game against Chicago and San Antonio.

    Just the fact that there’s legitimate FIGHT in these guys is a godsend. Records and seasonal outcome be damned, just as long as the faith stays alive.

  • vtsunrise

    I was at the game and felt ho-hum about much of it. The Suns seemed a bit uninspired and disjointed, sputtered a bit, but played good D and hung in there, and then towards the end of the 3rd, things came together and in the last half of the 4th they jelled.

    Among the most impressive plays were Plumlee’s 2 blocks on Davis near the end. Davis cleaned his clock on all jump balls and has a gazelle-like vertical. All the more reason to applaud Plumlee’s intense D and perfectly timed blocks. This guy is a steal and a keeper. Kieff played wonderfully. Bledsoe recovered from a period of confusion and low energy to finish strong. Wonderful to see Dragic back. Archie showed energy and moxie. Green’s dunks were stunning. Wonderful finish to the game with a lot of cohesion. This team will keep improving under a solid coach.

  • vtsunrise

    An absolute treat to meet and share laughs and beers with Smovas and Hawki after the game . Way cool.

  • Darryl

    It was a sloppy game. The nice part was that the team was able to get some stops and some timely baskets in the 4th quarter. Plus they played pretty good defense on Anthony Davis who had been hot coming into this game. Please NBA fans visit my blog too.

  • Bam

    @Mel, i have no idea what u’re watching, but mayo is in the bucks, although he contributed to the Mavericks win by turning over the ball 5 times during crunch time.

  • Bam

    On topic though, we seem to have a pretty reasonable schedule thus far, playing against mostly teams which doesnt look like they’ll make the playoffs. Pelicans. As of now, we have lost against playoff calibre teams (spurs, OKC), won against New Orlean twice (i dont believe they’ll make the playoff), portland (no Defense), Denver (er… #riggingforwiggins), and Utah (who’s trying to take over the bobcats in their losing record). Next up is Portland again, and i’ll be surprised if we lose this.
    Sadly, we havent met much fringe playoff teams, so it’s kinda earlier to say. I’m looking more at teams like Grizzlies(who somehow arent like themselves recently), Mavericks, Timberwolves (if we’re talking about the west), Houston who arent a lock at playoff yet, although the last 2 are extremely likely to be in the playoffs.

  • EBJM

    Hey Mel not only is O.J. Mayo the BUCKS starting SG Caron Butler’s reduction in points is more than slight, it is non-existent as he plays alongside Mayo at SF for the BUCKS. In fact he has NEVER been relevant for the Mavericks as he was injured during their championship season forcing Marion into the starting line-up where he has stayed. PG Jose Calderon is their PG and the main reason the Mavericks are running so smoothly. He also has played for the Clips the past two seasons. Monta Ellis provides the scoring that is relieving Dirk from having to dominate every night. Samuel Dalembert rounds out the starting five.

    I guess Dave:f32 hasn’t watched the Nets as the old guys they brought in are doing nothing but holding them back. In fact Kidd has noticed Miles doing so well he has finally relented and is starting to give younger brother Mason some burn.

    Heat are in a funk and have lost something like 4 games. Lakers have been BLOWN OUT THREE times this season already. Suns have already beaten the Clips. Raptors aren’t any better than Phoenix and aren’t nearly as deep. What is Kyle Lowery going to do with Bledsoe?

    There are TWO teams on that list that will be great tests for Phoenix, the Pacers and the Wolves.

    It just encourages me to want to RANT when people throw out a list of teams that based on their past or because they might look appealing on paper think they are formidable opponents in spite that they currently are losing.

    Worse yet when they don’t even know what team players are playing for.

    Darryl the rules for posting here prohibit plugging your own site. Very tacky.

  • EBJM

    I also don’t agree with keeping the Morri on the bench if Markieff is going to continue to play like an All-Star. Frye and Tucker are NBA back-ups and should be part of the 2nd unit.

    If the Suns are going to continue to win then put the best five on the court and use the back-ups as back-ups.

  • EBJM

    Suns are back!

    Suns are a lock for 2nd in the Pacific division and 4th in the WC giving them home court advantage in the 1st rd.

    They meet Houston in the 1st rd and win a grueling seven game series.

    They go on to meet their old nemesis the Spurs in the 2nd rd and defeat them in six as the young Suns make Duncan and Ginobilli look their age.

    In the WCFs they meet up with the Warriors and win a thrilling seven game series just like they did against the heavily favored defending champs back in ’75-’76.

    But just like in ’75-’76 they go out in five games to the Pacers (instead of Boston).

    Markieff ends the season with Suns fans asking who is Julius Randle?

  • EBJM

    There are similarities between the two teams. Old Suns were built around a former back-up guard, Paul Westphal (Eric Bledsoe). They started a rookie center, Alvan Adams (Miles Plumlee is basically a redshirt rookie having only played 55 minutes last season) While Archie Goodwin isn’t starting he is Ricky Sobers.

    Curtis Perry and Garfield Heard were rather pedestrian forwards that are now the Morri. Nate Hawthorne is being played by P.J. Tucker.

    The NBA’s all-time meanest enforcer, Dennis Awtrey’s role falls upon Slava. Goran Dragic plays the role of veteran Dick Van Arsdale. Gerald Green plays Keith Erickson and Dionte Christmas is Pat Riley.

    Sorry but there isn’t a Frye counter-part.

    History tends to repeat itself!

  • tthecat

    EBJM, yes – and no.

    I agree with your analysis of the Mavs, Bucks and Nets but it’s a stretch right now to put the Suns in the NBA Finals with such a small sample size to work from. I love the effort and have faith in the GM and coach, but we can’t assume Kieff and Plumlee are going to play like this all season.

    Wondering about Dragic’s return last night given that he’s still hurt. This is a long season and therefore I support the decision to bring Len in slowly. Shouldn’t they use the same caution with Goran? We have depth at guard right now.

    By the way, if your scenario happened, that would be the biggest thing to ever hit the Valley. ’92-’93 was something a lot of people thought was possible after we got Sir Charles. This year has totally snuck up on most people.

  • EBJM

    Tthecat I’m in Butler mode. This is the type of stuff he loves. But this team is eerily similar to the “Cinderella Suns”. While I’m being entertaining there is a little part of me that dreams it is a possibility no matter how remote.

    I was there in ’75-’76 and freaked-out when they gave up John Shumate for Garfield Heard.

    I was there when they traded away the #2 overall pick Armon Gilliam for Kurt Rambis.

    I was there when they sent Larry Nance and Mike Saunders to Cleveland for rookie Kevin Johnson, and journeymen Mark West and Tyrone Corbin and the draft pick they used on Dan Majerle.

    But sometimes the total sum of a teams parts makes up for the lack of a couple of Super-Stars. Injuries to Lebron James and Dwayne Wade have made the Heat very ordinary because their talent isn’t equally balanced.

    IMO there isn’t one clear dominate team in the West. The Warriors and Spurs are the only two that come close.

    Unlike past Suns teams, they are good defensively. With the wealth of good centers out West, Plumlee is surprisingly doing quite well. Out of the centers that I project as making the playoffs, I rank Plumlee #4 behind Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, and DeAndre Jordan. That is statistically and defensively. The kid is putting up very close to 12/10 and over 2 blocks and is very good defensively.

    Bledsoe is growing before our eyes. Markieff the past three games is playing as well as any PF out West not named Kevin Love.

    The team chemistry is phenomenal! Green just gave an interview to USA Today hoping for Dragic to come back soon even though it might mean he returns to the bench. Green says all he cares about is winning.

    Sure it is only seven games but why not enjoy rubbing it in the faces of all those who didn’t believe while we have the chance?

  • john

    While I’m happy the Suns are winning and competing and enjoying things right now, I still have my doubts that these guys will continue playing at career levels.

    Gerald Green has never had a season with a TS% over 60% (he’s never been all that close to 60% either). He’s currently at 62.5%.

    Markieff Morris has PER of 27.5 right now. His first two seasons were 12.1 and 12.6. Nobody makes a 15-pt PER jump in a season. Btw, his WS48 is 0.304 right now. He has almost as many win shares right now (1.1) as he did all of last season (1.7) or his rookie season (1.5). Markieff has never broken 50% in TS% before. Right now he’s at 67.9%.

    Eric Bledsoe has similarly increased his shooting percentages. His TS% is up 13% from his previous career high. His free throw rate is sky high. He’s got a net rating of +17 right now (in previous years he was -15, -12, and +1).

    Maybe these guys are all having breakout years. I guess that’s possible. But I think it’s more likely that at least two of them are on hot streaks (my guess is ‘Kieff and Green are on hot streaks, and Bledsoe is almost as good as he is currently playing).

    Either way, I’m enjoying it while I can. It’s been a while since anyone has had a reason to be excited about the Phoenix Suns.

  • Watty

    Now generally I drink the kool aid, not gonna deny that. However I did not see this team coming even remotely close to this start. Loving every minute, and what I think is the cherry on top is some of things writers and reporters predicted about this team and said about the franchise. Bill Simmons and Chad Ford both pound sand as far as I’m concerened, and I don’t care what they have to say but it is sweet that those two douch bags are wrong thus far. Anyway this is fun watching and I’m quickly( just my nature as a life long fan) buying into the playoffs as a reachable goal.

  • Mel.

    Yeah, I’ve tried to forensically re-create what my thought process was when I posted that last night: the fact that I don’t remember doing so is probably a good indication that I shouldn’t have.

    Post-game ABAs and posting do not, a productive mix, make. Fun night at USAA, though. XD

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