Picking up their fifth consecutive win, the Suns staved off a late rally from the Washington Wizards to win by a final of 99-93.
A favorable outcome was not always certain for Phoenix, as they let many extravagant leads evaporate late, opening the Wizards window of opportunity. Eric Bledsoe sank the dagger with under a minute to play off the pass from Goran Dragic to put the game on ice and keep the Suns in the driver’s seat of the West’s eighth playoff seed.
The addition of Bledsoe back into the fold has created a dynamic to the Suns that has been missing in his absence. For obvious reasons, he is the team’s second leading scorer and best on-ball defender; but he also adds an element of speed that no one else has been able to match. When mixed with Dragic in the backcourt, they become maybe the league’s most lethal backcourt duo.
On a night where not much went wrong from the field, the free-throw line proved itself a critical juncture. Shooting 11-of-12 (92%) from the stripe were the Suns, while the Wizards went 13-of-21 (62%). With the Suns winning by such a slim margin, free throws are the easiest way to explain how they were able to stave off a hungry Washington club.
Leading the way tonight for Phoenix was unquestionably Goran Dragic. He was outscored by his superstar counterpart, John Wall, but Dragic’s night of 25 points, seven boards and six dimes, shone brighter on this night as he got the W. As mentioned earlier, Dragic may be benefitting the most from having Bledsoe return to the lineup, as the copious amounts of pressure that were on him before, may now be subsiding. Playing at a true MVP-level, it will be Dragic who will have to carry the team over their remaining 10 games.
Even though he did have an efficient night of 17 points and five rebounds, Marcin Gortat reminded Suns fans as to why he was not always worth the price tag he commanded. While he has risen his level of play in DC this past season, the contributions from Miles Plumlee and the Morris Twins have displayed that salary figures do not always dictate the best players on the floor.
After watching John Wall nearly steal the game back at its conclusion, the Suns can be thankful to be coming home with their winning streak intact. Their remaining schedule seesaws between strenuous and simplistic, so beating the teams they are “supposed” to beat will be critical.
Returning home for a quick, one game homestand on Friday night, the Suns play one of those teams they’ll be expected to beat. Carmelo Anthony brings his New York Knicks into Phoenix, hoping to catch the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. (The Knicks are 30-42; were the Suns to be placed in the Eastern Conference, they would currently be the number three seed.)
Be sure to tune in at 7 PM, Friday night at the US Airways Center as the Suns look to keep the good times rolling.