Preview: New Orleans Pelicans (23-34) vs. Phoenix Suns (33-24)

Time: 8:30 p.m. MST

TV: ESPN/FSA

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Suns

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 that’s out of the way, it comes down to how they handle business Friday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. Even if Dragic remains out with a sprained ankle, the Suns arguably remain a strong favorite — though it seems unlikely the Dragon sits out considering he’s 1) a tough dude and 2) looked like he almost was able to go on Wednesday at Utah.

New Orleans has lost seven of its last eight games. Four of those losses came against Eastern Conference playoff teams not from Miami or Indiana, and the other two came against the Mavericks and Clippers.

Phoenix sits a half-game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot and would fall to the ninth seed by the end of the night if the Grizz also take down the Oklahoma City Thunder at home.

There are 25 games to go, and the pressure to hold off a battle-tested Memphis team is already there. The Suns are officially battling for their playoff lives.

Can the Suns get hot from three-point range?

The Pelicans’ allowed Dallas and Los Angeles to go 26-for-40 from deep in their last two games, and if that 65 percent clip for their opponents continues, Phoenix surely can have a shot at getting back on track.

Truly, the Suns need something to go in their favor. Channing Frye especially could use a boost. He’s failed to score double-digits in the last three games while shooting 28 percent overall. Gerald Green hasn’t shot all that terribly lately, but he has from deep. Getting points heading toward the rim and hitting short mid-range buckets is important to get Green going, but the rest of the floor will open up for others if he’s hunting for open threes. That’s easier said than done without Dragic’s ability to drive and kick.

Will Markieff keep it up against The Brow?

In two wins for Phoenix against the Pelicans this year, Suns forward Markieff Morris had a go at Anthony Davis. Call the 23-point and 17-point outings firm examples of the power forward at his best. Morris learned in each game that settling for fadeaway jumpers isn’t a good idea considering Davis’ wingspan, but he did learn he’s got the ability to attack off the bounce and use his shoulders to shed — and even draw fouls on — the second-year pro.

Davis suffered a shoulder sprain against the Mavericks and is listed as day-to-day.

Is Eric Gordon’s heart in Phoenix still?

Sorry to touch on this again, but Gordon sits alongside Davis as the only other true offensive threat for New Orleans. Whether it’s Green or P.J. Tucker getting the defensive assignment, Phoenix cannot allow the shooting guard to get into a groove. The defense has slipped in a big way over the last three games, and if it’s not the stars scoring points, then Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has to worry about the others as well.

None of Brian Roberts, Alex Ajinca or Luke Babbitt should have a career night if the Suns want to end a three-game skid.

Bonus

The below is Tyreke Evans’ shot chart. He is not a good jump shooter but certainly a very capable and physical guy on the drive. Let’s count how many times the Suns attempt to run at him on the jumper, and then let us put our heads in our hands each time it happens.

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