Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 1st, 2:09 am
PHOENIX — An hour before the Suns faced the Pelicans on Friday night, Goran Dragic seemed doubtful to lace them up. He failed to go through shootaround because of an ankle sprain, and Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek wondered how to gauge the truth when the point guard was undoubtedly going to tell him he was able to play. After all, the Slovenian’s parents were visiting U.S. Airways Center, taking in a rare opportunity to watch their son live.
Hornacek consulted with trainer Aaron Nelson after Dragic claimed he was good to go.
“Aaron goes, ‘I can usually tell when he’s kind of fibbing about it,’ ” Hornacek said. “He goes, ‘I think he’s good.’ ”
Turns out, it was a solid decision. Phoenix won 116-104 behind Dragic’s 40 points on 14-of-21 shooting. By the end of the late finish, Dragic left to MVP chants as he finished off New Orleans at the foul stripe and then left for the final 10 seconds to join a rowdy Phoenix bench.
“I never thought they would cheer that for me,” he said later. “I heard that when I was here for Steve (Nash). It’s a great feeling especially, those four free throws when the whole crowd stand up and cheer. It’s something special in my career I am probably going to remember my whole life.”
How Dragic did it so effortlessly was clearly a combination of things.
For one, Dragic can score in a number of different ways. He hit spot-up threes and other deep balls off switches on pick-and-rolls. When he was guarded physically by starting Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts, Dragic used screens to cut between two players, his most impressive play came on a spin move that split a thin gap when he seemed wrapped up by two New Orleans players. When Dragic had a second-year pro in Austin Rivers guarding him, he bullied his way under the basket.
Did I mention he was looking like a scratch an hour before the game?
“All-NBA guys, they play through things and they play well through things,” Hornacek said. “They don’t sit out, bumps and bruises. Goran’s always been that way. Heck, he cracked his head earlier in the season and he wanted to go out in the second half, and I don’t know he could see what was going on out there so we had to take him out.
“I think everybody knows about Goran Dragic now. Or they should.”
It didn’t help that New Orleans’ defense was worse than broken.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on February 28th, 11:19 pm
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.
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Tags: New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on February 28th, 7:50 pm
PHOENIX — Anthony Davis will play Friday against the Phoenix Suns having recovered well from a tweaked shoulder, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. Goran Dragic tested out his bum ankle and is good to go as Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was hoping for an “honest answer” from the point guard about how his ankle feels.
Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans? He’s supposed to make his first start of the year, but he’s arriving late to U.S. Airways Center.
“I’m going to put Tyreke in the starting lineup but it’s an unfortunate set of circumstances — there’s not any other way to put this — he’s stuck in the elevator and they can’t get him out,” Williams said in his pregame media briefing. “It’s not his fault that he’s late, we just had to leave him.
Leave him?! In an elevator, alone?
Evans confirmed it on Instagram with a video of … darkness and worry.
“That’s life, a bit extreme at times,” Williams said. “I probably wouldn’t be so forthright with our information but it’s not his fault that he’s not here. Normally, you’d expect him to be out there warming up at this point so if you see him coming in around 7:45 or later that’s the reason why.”
Word trickled down that Evans made it into the arena at 7:45 p.m., 45 minutes before tip.
The Man is just not on the Pelicans’ side.
Check out a scared Tyreke shaking his head in darkness below the jump.
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Tags: New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on February 28th, 11:00 am
Time: 8:30 p.m. MST
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.
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Tags: Eric Gordon · New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on February 27th, 2:01 pm
The lucky Phoenix Suns get another taste of Adidas’ forceful push for sleeves. As part of the league’s “Noche Latina” (Latin Night) series, Phoenix will wear sleeved black alternates for three games in March. Pictures of Goran Dragic wearing a smile and the jerseys has made circles around the internet, a funny thing because he was the quite skeptical of the sleeves.
For the record, the Suns’ blowout of San Antonio last Friday marked the first win in three games wearing the orange and sleeved alternates this season.
Noche Latina night schedule
- March 6, Thunder vs. Los Suns
- March 10, Los Suns vs. Clippers (NBATV)
- March 19, Magic vs. Los Suns
Everyone loves Goran
Goran Dragic may be an unknown entity to casual fans and might cause skepticism among some, but those covering the Suns and those who watch enough of them have a hard time believing the Dragon is anything less than a border-line All-Star. If the loss at Utah on Wednesday said anything, it was that Phoenix needs Dragic more than Dragic needs Phoenix.
In a poll of anonymous NBA scouts, ESPN found that Dragic is well-respected in the NBA.
Western Conference scout: “…he’s made himself into a shooter.
“You go underneath the pick and he’s going to make shots. He’s really good. It’s a credit to his work ethic. He’s a little bigger than you think he is. He’s thick and he’s strong. To have a team with no other stars that lost Eric Bledsoe to injury be in the playoff hunt in the West? He’s a damn good player.”
And one more from another scout: “I’ve seen enough of him to know that if I was a GM and I needed a point guard, I’d do whatever it takes to get him. If I was looking for a point guard, he’d be right at the top of the list. I think he’s the real deal.”
So there’s that.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Phoenix Suns News
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on February 27th, 6:00 am
PHOENIX — Kevin Johnson never expected all of this.
Coming out of a poor northern California neighborhood, he never dreamed of getting to the NBA, let alone be one of the most electrifying players in the league for many years. From 1988-1997, Johnson averaged 19.8 points and 10 assists per game as he led the Suns to the playoffs every single year, including a berth in the 1993 NBA Finals.
Johnson is grateful for his time in the desert and believes his current success outside of basketball can be traced back to his time in purple and orange.
“My story is a Phoenix story,” Johnson said on Sunday, when he returned to Phoenix.
Johnson’s career began to rise from the ashes when he was traded during his rookie season from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1988. When he arrived to the valley, the team was in the midst of its fourth straight sub-.500 season and the organization was a mess.
Things were about to change.
The Suns had a dramatic turnaround in the 1988-89 season, which coincided with Johnson’s rise to the top.
“I remember when I first got here and this organization was in shambles,” Johnson said. “We only won 28 games that year and I think we had one of the three biggest turnarounds in NBA history the next year.
“We had a great run, for 11 years straight we were in the playoffs and I was on that team.”
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Tags: 1993 Phoenix Suns · Kevin Johnson