Brandan Wright’s Big Night Helps Suns Steal A Win


Phoenix- It was a throwback themed party at US Airways Center on Thursday night.

The Suns played their old 1990’s player introduction video before the game, the cheerleaders were in old cheer uniforms and fans got a Jeff Hornacek old school jersey apron.

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Besides all that fun jazz, the Phoenix Suns (36-33) and New Orleans Pelicans (37-31) voluntarily decided to play a basketball game that resembled one from the old era as the Suns grinded out a 74-72 victory that kept their slim playoff hopes alive in the Western Conference.

Defense was the name of the game as both teams shot under 37%, combined to go 7-40 from behind the 3-point line and had a final score that brought back memories of old-time basketball, with some people going farther back than others when describing the era of basketball tonight’s defensive battle compared to.

“I think it was a throwback night to the 1930’s, wasn’t it,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek asked after the game. “Yeah, it wasn’t a pretty game, but I think defensively our guys got after it. We made it difficult. They got some open ones maybe late, but for the most part, our guys did a good job defensively.”

The Suns job defensively was made easier by the rash of injuries to the Pelicans, headlined by MVP Candidate Anthony Davis who missed tonight’s contest after rolling his ankle during shootaround. Add in the current injuries to Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday, then mix in Omer Asik leaving in the third quarter with an injury, and there goes 60 points a night.

Despite the limited offense, the Pelicans stayed in the game thanks to a strong defensive effort that held the Suns to just 31 second half points, which allowed them to have a chance to win it late.

Tyreke Evans had an open look from 11 feet out on the final possession with his team down a point, but did not get a friendly bounce that P.J. Tucker grabbed for the game clinching rebound.

In fact, Phoenix had one of their best team rebounding nights of the season, led by a career-high 13 boards from Marcus Morris. The Suns out-rebounded the Pelicans 57-45 and had all five starters grab at least eight boards.

The domination on the boards limited the Pelicans to just six second chance points, and was the key to the Suns victory.

“I think we just grinded out a win,” Brandan Wright said after the game. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we played great defense. This might be a season-low of opponents on points, and we got the win.”

It was a season-low for the Suns in opponents points, and they would not have gotten there if not for the effort of Wright, who started his second straight game in place of an injured Alex Len.

“He was unbelievable, blocking shots, I think he had seven blocked shots tonight,” Suns guard Eric Bledsoe said. “To do that, and rebound, and score for us, it was big.”

Wright’s seven blocked shots tied his career-high, and was the most by a Sun since Jermaine O’Neal‘s seven block effort on April 10, 2013.

Besides blocking shots and grabbing eight rebounds, Wright was a menace around the basket on offense. He scored 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting that included an important put-back dunk with 2:45 left in the game that gave the Suns a 71-66 lead.

“I thought he did a great job, he was great the other night against the Knicks, and tonight,” Hornacek said on his big man. “He’s long, he’s more active with blocked shots. He got a couple of shots that guys didn’t think he was going to be able to get and he was able to block them.

“What was good, I think there was only once during the game where that the roller got behind and that’s part credit to our guards who are fighting those pick-and-roll ball handlers to fight to get back. But there were times when he was challenging the shot, and still getting back in there for the rebound. That’s activity that we love to get from him.”

Whatever word you want to use to describe the Suns win, the bottom line as many players noted after the game was it was a win. And that win allows everybody to continue to use the words playoffs and Suns in the same sentence as a possibility.

The team now sits two and a half games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot, and a game and a half behind the Pelicans with a game remaining against both teams.

A loss tonight would have essentially derailed any hope the team had of making the playoffs, but with the win, this team lives to fight a few more days.

“We were in a dogfight. We need every win,” Bledsoe said. “We got to go out there and play. Even if games will be like this the rest of the season, we just got to go out there and play the best we can and continue to play team defense.”

Next: Phoenix Suns: 5 Must-Win Games To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

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