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.