Phoenix Suns 94, New Orleans Pelicans 88 – Avoiding the trap

It was not pretty. It was not very entertaining. But the Suns’ 94-88 win over the New Orleans Pelicans was still a win. And that is all that matters at this point in the season.

We’ll start with the bad. The Suns gave up 44 points in the paint to a Pelicans team that was missing Anthony Davis. Davis sat out the game with back spasms, but that didn’t stop New Orleans from dominating around the rim. Rookie Jeff Withey led the Pelicans with 17 points, nearly all of which came on uncontested dunks and layups. The Suns’ defense was so lacking that in the second quarter, New Orleans shot 78% from the floor. Miles Plumlee was totally absent as a rim protector, recording no blocks and grabbing only six rebounds. New Orleans was missing all but one of their opening day starters, yet Phoenix’s porous defense allowed the Pelicans’ reserves to score 53 of the team’s 88 points and made guys like Anthony Morrow and Luke Babbitt look like All Stars. Tonight’s game was just another example of the Suns playing down to the level of their competition. Luckily the Suns have three tough opponents coming up, so Coach Hornacek won’t need to worry about his team’s nasty habit for another week.

Offensively, Phoenix played well aside from some poor shot selection by the Morris twins and continued hesitancy from Channing Frye. Goran Dragic captained the ship well throughout the game, keeping the team afloat with 20 points and nine assists and steadying the ship every time the home team threatened to put the Suns in a hole. P.J. Tucker was a rock, as usual, scoring 15 points on just nine shots and grabbing a team-high nine boards. Overall, the Suns shots nearly 49% from the floor, hit nine of their 19 attempts from downtown, and turned the ball over just 12 times. But it was not an offensive performance they’ll be rushing to watch on film anytime soon.

The Morris’ were a combined 7-of-20 and struggled with indecisiveness all game. Markieff and Marcus are at their best when they pull up for jumpers with confidence or drive strong to the rim seeking contact. Neither brother did much of either in this game. Instead they forced awkward, off-balance drives and took contested jumpers. And as for Channing Frye, his cold streak continues. Channing was very hesitant offensively. Aside from a nice jump hook in the first quarter, he did not look confident on a single shot. Frye has struggled at various points this year, but his current slump has kept him below 50% shooting for seven straight games. He has hit only six threes over that stretch, with four of them coming in the loss to the Clippers. The Suns will need Frye to figure it out soon if they want to hold onto a playoff spot. For more on this game, let’s answer our three preview questions.

Can Phoenix control Anthony Davis?

I think it’s fair to say that had Davis played, the Suns would have lost this game. It was clear from the very start that the difference between New Orleans’ record and that of the Suns’ remaining opponents caused Phoenix to overlook this Pelicans team. Davis is one of the most talented big men in the league. Had he played against the Suns who were clearly in auto-pilot, he would have had a field day. Phoenix must capitalize on this bit luck and step up their game up moving forward.

Will Green keep cruising (again)?

For the first 42 minutes of this game, Gerald Green was the Suns’ most valuable player. Continuing his recent hot streak, Gerald had 21 points off the bench, scoring both at the rim and from beyond the arc. He had two great dunks off baseline drives that showed just how locked in he was from the start. Green went 4-of-7 from downtown, but each time he missed a triple, he made a point of driving the ball to the hoop on his next touch. He was doing everything the Suns needed him to do. Then, with 5:35 left in the game, he committed an offensive foul and earned himself a technical foul as he walked to the other end. Coach Hornacek was so incensed with Green that he hurriedly subbed Markieff in for him and had words with Gerald when he didn’t immediately come to the bench. Drawing a tech when the Suns were trailing by two on the road was not a smart move, and the intensity of the moment clearly got to he and Coach Hornacek. The stay in the doghouse didn’t last too long though as Green returned to the court late in the game when the Suns needed to make free throws to seal the win.

Where is Eric Bledsoe’s jump shot?

It is back in a big way. Bledsoe shot 0-for-6 from the floor in the first half. He looked hesitant and indecisive. He airballed a three and looked as though he never wanted to take another jumper. But in the third quarter, with the Suns teetering on the edge of a total meltdown, Bledsoe found his jumpshot and started firing away. In the second half, Bledsoe hit seven straight shots, six of which were jumpers. He drained step backs, pull ups, and a triple off of ball reversal. The bandage on his shooting hand looked like it was covering a burn because his hand was so hot. If not for Bledsoe finding his game, the Suns would most likely have fallen to the Pelicans, but thanks in no small part to his 17 points, six boards, and six assists, Phoenix grabbed win number 47 on the year and held onto the eighth seed in the West.

Bonus Question: How did the Grizzlies do?

Unfortunately for the Suns, their chance to build a two-game lead on Memphis was spoiled. The Grizzlies, thanks to their big man duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, overpowered the Miami Heat for a 107-102 home victory. Memphis remains a game back of Phoenix and 1.5 games back of Dallas in the West. The Suns will take on the Grizzlies in Phoenix next Monday, in a game that will likely decide both teams’ fate.

Tags: New Orleans Pelicans Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • Voqar

    WTF happened to the TV coverage of this game? I found it to record on the Fox AZ off channel and it never aired.

    It’s pretty damn sad when the Suns in the playoff hunt are put on the side in favor of watching paint dry – err…baseball. Baseball has too many damn games and nobody would even notice if one of those steaming piles failed to air.

    Friggin ridiculous.

  • sunsn7

    Umm..did you know it was a 5pm tipoff? The game did air on FoxsportsAZ immediately followed by Dbacks Giants ;)

  • sunsn7

    And another thought on Frye. His confidence in his shot is shaky but at least I saw some of that early season fight on the defensive end. He needs to accept the fact he needs to contribute in a reduced role.

    That will demonstrate veteran leadership

  • sunsn7

    And still very much disappointed by what I saw from Bledsoe during the first half..

  • CarlyJoni

    Sloppy win, but a win to forget about now. Good thing Bledsoe came alive in the 2nd half. But nothings changed in the standings since Lebron and co. failed against the Grizz. Now the Suns prepare for the Spurs, but the Spurs must first dispatch Dirk. It will be interesting to see who Pop plays and whom he rests.

  • TI

    The Suns barely escaped that one. Didn’t see much of Anthony “Brow” Davis highlights, so I’m going to assume that he did not get much go on the court…?

    Memphis plays Philly. Suns play Spurs. Skating on thin ice, yikes!

    And, about Robin Lopez – he is hardly the brightest tool in the shed. Has he improved? Yup. But, you old guys always start with those injury excuses when it comes to average big men that we’re projected to be stars! Hmmm, I wonder why?

  • JK

    Bledsoe wasted a lot of possessions tonight, but he did make up for it by picking up his play in the second half with the addition of a crucial steal late in the 4th. Regarding Channing Frye, I love him… But I don’t think I can defend him any longer. He is absolutely terrible right now, and we are going to miss the playoffs if he doesn’t start stepping his shit up.

    Goran Dragic was the only bright spot tonight in my opinion because he had no mental errors like Green and didn’t have any brutal stretches of play like Bledsoe. It still blows my mind that he wasn’t an All-Star this year.

  • hawki

    Why did Len get a DNP ?
    Is he hurt ?

  • foreveris2long

    TI, You do not seem very bright yourself. The guy had a herniated disc with numbness and pain radiating in his legs. Due to the fact he elected not to have surgery it took over a year for him to fully recover. Further, being selected I believe # 16, I do not recall anyone making allstar predictions. Come on man you can do better than that.

  • vtsunrise

    March Madness, meet April Amazingness.

    Round Robin play begins this weekend with DAL-PHX. Phabulously Phun. Rock on, Phoenicians. Rock on! Break on through to the other side.

  • sunsn7

    Why no Alex Len?

    Was asking myself that very question as the Suns’ defensive lane had the red carpet in place for Pelicans. Hornacek shouldn’t have it set in stone that he must shorten the rotation now. Just because playoff race is on doesn’t mean he can’t pull Len off the shelf..I understand Goodwin sitting right now because of Bledsoe’s return (although rather see Archie than Ish) but Alex Len could’ve provided much needed contests at the basket..and perhaps a moment of pause for penetrating Pelicans.

    With Spurs and Grizzlies upcoming, it’s likely we’ll see him

  • EBJM

    Watched the Grizzlies kill the Heat. James Johnson blocked a King James shot and of course he cried to the refs. If Withey killed the Suns, the Grizzlies are going to blow out the Suns. Suns better maintain a two game lead on them before they play each other.

    King James had a monster dunk but while he stood there gloating over it, Mark Gasol tapped the ball out of the net which was directly over James’s head and threw it down court for a fast break, Funny stuff.

    What exactly makes Robin Lopez so stupid? The kid never had much interest in playing ball his entire life but tagged along with Brook all the way to the NBA.

    He left Stanford early and earned millions because of it. He was drafted to back Shaq and was considered a project like almost every other seven-footer who declares early.

    Now in his 6th year and just entering his prime he is having a career year. Blazers are so thrilled with his production, which has exceeded everyone’s expectations that they have scrapped plans to pursue Omer Asik.

    BTW, Blazer fans were upset that Jeff Withley, a 2nd rd pick, was traded for Robin but now have so embraced Robin and his eclectic interests that he was named Ambassador to Wizard World Portland Comic Con this past January.

    Robin simply loves playing in Portland and his energized play has endeared him to his teammates who feed off of it.

    My only point mentioning Robin at all is that the Suns rebuilding plans have accelerated greatly this season and the Suns center of the future is a 20 year-old project. Miles will never develop the skills of his younger brother Mason as we just witnessed Jeff Withey abuse him in a game the Suns needed badly.

    What is Miles going to do in possibly the biggest game of his life against Mark Gasol who is perhaps playing the best ball of any center today?

    Another note on Withey, he couldn’t even crack the Pelicans rotation until after they discovered Alexis Ajinca is not the answer at center and he still backs Greg Stiemsma who only starts because Davis and Anderson are injured.

    Yes, he started the season as the 3rd string center on a team that only had two centers and then watched as the Pelicans signed Ajinca in December who got 27 starts.

    Miles performance was simply pathetic but for those of you who think he will suddenly develop skills at age 26 (by the start of next season), his prime, well you are a tad bit delusional.

    For the hook shot hater, 7′-1″ Mark Gasol hit some difficult ones over seven-footer Justin Hamilton and he simply abused Bosh.

    Something to be said about having a skilled seven-foot center who can play TODAY. Suns dumped the two best ones in Robin and Gortat. But I’ll admit that I didn’t have near the confidence that Foreveris2long did in Robin.

    Stupid? Based on what exactly?

  • Jeff_Withey

    Go ahead and stay on Side Show Rob’s jock. Meanwhile, I will be balling all the way to the bank!

  • Mason Plumlee

    Sure Jeff, as long as you play Miles Plumlee nightly! Otherwise, plan to room with Meyer Leonard in the D-league.

  • Mason Plumlee

    Oh wait, is it Leonard Meyers? Kind of like Withey who?

  • EBJM

    Robin’s jockstrap? I wonder how far the Suns could get with Robin instead of Miles this week?

    While Miles stunk it up against a 4th string center. Robin managed to stay on the court 37 minutes against Demarcus Cousins and post 13/11/1 and held Cousins to under 50% shooting and only fouled him once.

    In the previous game against the Pelicans, Withey managed a whole three minutes playing behind Stiemsma and Ajinca.

  • DZ

    While I’m really happy about Robin Lopez’s success in Portland, NOBODY is going to drop off Aldridge to double team Lopez. If Lopez was still with the Suns, EVERYONE would drop off Frye to double team Lopez.

    But that would still be better than everyone dropping off Frye and/or Plumlee to double or triple team anyone else when the two of them are on the court at the same time.

    If the Suns had started this season with Lopez at the 5 instead of Plumlee, they would probably be in the position of GS or Portland instead of fighting for the eighth playoff spot…

    … but if the Suns had started the season with Lopez and Aldridge they would be fighting with SA, OKC and LAC for the top spot in the West.

    Lopez would have helped out a lot this season but I doubt that he alone could have made up for the Suns problem at the 4 spot.

  • sunsn7

    DZ why are you speaking of Lopez only from the perspective of offensive production? His true value is that he contests shots, moves people in the paint, and cleans the backboards..his scoring production is just the proverbial icing on the cake.

  • DZ

    Sigh… do you really want me to write a novel here, sunsn7? OK.

    Lopez averages 8.5 rebounds per game. Plumlee averages 8.0 rebounds per game. Lopez averages 31.8 minutes per game. Plumlee averages 24.7 minutes per game. When you covert that to rebounds per 48 minutes, Plumlee averages 15.4 rp48 and Lopez averages 12.9 rp48.

    In short, Plumlee “cleans the backboards” better than Lopez.

    On blocks, Lopez wins with 2.64 bp48 to 2.22 bp48 for Plumlee.

    On assists, Lopez wins again with 1.3 ap48 to 1.1 asp48 fo Plumlee.

    On turnovers, Lopez wins again with a 1.5 top48 rate to a 2.7 top48 rate for Plumlee. (Ouch!)

    But if you want to compare strictly offensive stats…

    Lopez beats on Plumlee on FG%. Lopez, .552 FG%. Plumlee, .514%. And Lopez scores 10.9 ppg as opposed to Plumlee scoring 8.2 ppg. Not a great difference considering the fact that Lopez plays an average of 7.1 minutes more than Plumlee per game.

    Add it all up and it’s easy to see that Lopez is a better player than Plumlee… but not by a lot. Plumlee is actually a better rebounder than Lopez although Lopez outperforms him in every other catagory… but not by a great margin.

    Lopez has developed into a very good player but I think that playing next to Aldridge makes him even better. How much better would Plumlee have looked playing next to Aldrigdge instead of Frye?

    There is no way to know for sure but I suspect that Lopez’s numbers would have been down if he wasn’t playing with Aldridge and Plumlee’s numbers would have been up if he was playing with a PF like Aldridge instead of Frye.

  • TI

    @DZ, well stated and imperviously right! The equation should be:

    Lopez = Plumslee

    Plumslee = Lopez

    Judging by the comments on the FroLo topic, you would think he is yhe next Hakeem The Dream Olajuwon. But he isn’t so whats the big ole fuss!

  • TI

    Since DZ brings the heat im dubbing him The Great Impervious One!

  • Oz

    Looooouuuuuu to Chi-Town baby

  • sunsn7

    Spurs handling the Mavs…

  • sunsn7

    DZ absolutely didn’t need you to write “a novel” but can appreciate your fervor for number crunching.

    But anyway, I’m not the one knocking Miles I was speaking purely from the perspective of Lopez’ impact on defense which I thought you overlooked initially.

    Just like I was one of the few Lopez supporters when he was here, haven’t given up on Miles..and especially not Len.

  • sunsn7


  • sunsn7

    ..not to overlook the Spurs, of course, but the Dallas game is gonna be a huge, entertaining game.

    Wonder what Popovich plans to do with his rotation tomorrow night?

  • Dave:f32

    Spurs will play, in no particular order:

    Patty Mills
    Kawahi Leonard
    Boris Diaw
    Tim Duncan
    Manu Ginobili
    Danny Green
    Marco Belinelli
    Tiago Splitter
    Austin Daye
    Jeff Ayres aka The Player Formerly Known as Pendegraph

    They have far exceeded expectations for this season. They are a legitimate title contending team complete with veteran leadership, and balanced with youthful players at key positions…

    Can you say…. Stacked

  • Dave:f32

    And they are a well-oiled machine, with a superior coach running the chess pieces! Suns have to bring their A game.

    No more of the mediocre play that they have been fortunate enough to get a win.

    Those games could have easily been L’s but they werent so people just forget the slop lop play.

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  • Eric

    Memphis blow out the Suns EBJM are you insane their will be no blowouts between these 3 teams coming down the wire all games will be close