Phoenix Suns 116, New Orleans Pelicans 104 — He’s no bum

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns won’t make the playoffs like this.

They shouldn’t, at least.

But in the regular season when Goran Dragic puts in a career night on a bum ankle, maybe this is what happens regularly.

Phoenix got away with a much-needed win, rallying to end a brutal third quarter and then riding Dragic’s 40 points to a 116-104 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Dragic, who earned a well-heard MVP chant at the end of the game, won’t pull out games like this every night. But he’s done enough to keep the Suns pumping along, even as the rest of their machinery begins to wear out.

Phoenix created some separation in the Western Conference playoff race as the Grizzlies put a scare into the Oklahoma City Thunder before falling 113-107, and that’s settling news for the present — it’s a long season to finish out.

On Friday, the Pelicans were injected with a sense of purpose with Anthony Davis playing after suffering a shoulder injury, Tyreke Evans’ first start in 50 games and Evans’ escape from an elevator. They kept it a game through the first half and came out of the halftime break on edge.

Dragic and Brian Roberts were assessed technicals after getting tangled to start the third quarter, and after the dust-up, New Orleans took a few more shots at the Dragon. It was a message, one not well-received by Phoenix at first. The Suns only grew softer as the Pelicans bodied into their opponents off the ball, no matter if they were two feet from the hoop or 32.

The good news: the Suns charged back and brought a lifeless crowd back from the morgue, erasing a 79-69 deficit with a 12-2 run – all by Dragic and Marcus Morris – in the final 2:21 of the third quarter. The tough-guy lineup of Dragic, Ish Smith, P.J. Tucker and the Morris twins rallied Phoenix to beat the confidence out of the briefly-swaggy Pelicans.

And with the breath of the Dragon, the beaks of the Pelicans cooked.

Dragic set another career high, scoring in his eight 30-point game of the year on an ankle that kept him out of morning shootaround and made him slow to announce he was good to go Friday. He hit 14-of-21 shots and finished the game out at the foul stripe before exiting to a cheerier crowd than would have otherwise been witnessing a struggle.

Can the Suns get hot from three-point range?

Although the Suns themselves couldn’t stay in front of their men or stop Davis from living in the mid-range, Phoenix had a fair share of success from three-point range, hitting 5-of-11 at half and going 10-of-43 by the end of the night.

Dragic set his new career-high by breaking his old record of 35 points with a jumper just after hitting a three-point bank shot from atop the key. The shot made him smile, then put his hands on his head in amazement. It was one of those nights.

Will Markieff keep it up against The Brow?

Markieff Morris was a bright spot and, like he had in the teams’ first two meetings, looked set on playing a physical offensive brand of basketball against Davis and otherwise. Eleven first-half points came mostly in the post, but that was just the beginning.

After the starting unit began to get manhandled with a physical defense that made you wonder how this New Orleans squad was so bad, the Pelicans showed just why they were so bad. On the third offensive rebound of a single play, Ish Smith finally capped the possession with a score at the rim and half-retreated Pelicans watched from around halfcourt.

Markieff finished with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with four assists.

Is Eric Gordon’s heart in Phoenix still?

A lackluster defensive effort allowed New Orleans to connect on 57.9 percent of its shots in the first half, and Gerald Green especially struggled to contain Gordon, who blew by him or found himself able to get off mildly-contested jumpers to score 12 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.

Gordon finished with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Bonus: How many times do the Suns defend a Tyreke Evans jumper?

The good news was that Evans made it to the arena at all. The guard made his first start of the year but was late to pregame activities because he was stuck in an elevator at the team hotel. Like, literally. Stuck. In. An. Elevator.

Evans put in an efficient night but aside from a surprising contested three-point make at the end of a shotclock — he shoots 15 percent on the season — scored a good chunk of his 14 points in transition.

  • SJose

    What a game from the Dragic Dragon! What a champ!

  • sunsn7

    Funny take on Tyreke, Zims. During the game I was thinking how Tyreke Evans is a perfect example of how GM’s often jump the gun and overpay…well, ya know

  • Sunsforlife

    Does anyone know if there is any way to watch the ESPN post game interview with Dragic?

  • bill_thomas

    Oh yeah, ESPN is begging him for an interview, but he refused to give one. Said something about going to check in with some Girl Scouts selling cookies at midnight at the mall. Oh well, you know those ESPN guys, you know, all the ones who were hired specifically bc they could not even make their own high school varsity team. THEY NEVER GIVE UP. STAN VERRETT IS THE BEST !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    We won this game because the Morris twins were great and Dragic basically had the game of his life

    we got nothing from Frye and Plumlee tonight

    Hornacek should think about giving Len a few starts, and moving Frye and Plumlee to the bench

    Start Markeiff and Len up front

    make Marcus the 6th man

    our defense was terrible most of the night, thats not gonna work in the playoffs against OKC

  • Luka

    Hearing the home crowd chant “M-V-P!” was awesome. That spin lay-up past Ajinca was siiiick. Goran is single-handedly keeping the Suns afloat.

    If we could just get this type of effort out of the Morris brothers on a consistent basis this team is in business again.

    I agree that Hornacek has to look into a line-up change. Let the Morris brothers start? With Tucker and Green at the 3 and 2? Frye and Plumlee might fare better off the bench with Ish and Goodwin.

  • john

    Is Goran going to be the first All-NBA guard who didn’t make the All-Star team? Anybody have any clue how often that happens?

  • foreveris2long

    You have to love the heart and skill set combo carries to the game every night. It was an exceptional game by Dragic.

    Maybe it is me being overly critical but Plumlee drives me crazy. It seems for every good play he makes two dumb plays. He has terrible hands when he is in low post and terrible judgment on his passes. Frye, I am tired of talking about him.

    Ish continues to be a really nice spark off the bench. Markieff is starting to shy away from the 3s and concentrating on slashing and facing up his opponent before shooting over him or taking him to the basket. he is becoming a lot more efficient. He does not rebound enough to be a starter but very valuable off the bench.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Right i get ya, i was just putting some suggestions out there

    Frye isnt much of a defender, and plumlee has basically no offensive game, or atleast one that cant be created by himself

    I love Frye and Plumlee, but a lineup change after 3 losses in 4 games and one lucky win because Dragic torched everyone is what we need

  • bill_thomas

    Should have gotten Hawes. Cheap quality. We resign him if we resign him, we don’t if we don’t. But he wasn’t a Celtic, so instead we get “The Terminator” Shavlik.

    A great locker-room guy!!