Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
By no means should the Suns have had the amount of difficulty that they did on this night against the struggling New Orleans Pelicans. Victory was not always seemingly in tow, but the talent won out over the course of 48 minutes.
Picking up a crucial win by a score of 94-88, the Suns battled a late fury by the decimated Pelicans roster. Sometimes, the most dangerous teams to face are those with nothing to lose.
At season’s beginning, the Pelicans deemed their playoffs chances promising after acquiring All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to be mixed with perennial superstars Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. Advantageous for the Suns, none of the three suited up on this evening.
Making his case for the NBA’s sixth man of the year award, Gerald Green put forth another outstanding effort off the bench, leading the team in scoring yet again. Connecting on four shots from deep and racking up 21 points in just 24 minutes of action, Green’s instantaneous offense provided the Suns a much needed spark off the bench.
Putting together their normally balanced attack, once again Goran Dragic spearheaded the assault. His numbers may have taken a slight dip upon the return of Eric Bledsoe to the lineup, but he has become exponentially more valuable to the team as a whole. Finishing the night with 20 points and nine assists, it was his steady contributions throughout the contest that allowed the Suns to hang around long enough to barely pull away at the end.
With the Pelicans severely wounded, it was a shock to watch them compete from the opening tap all the way through the final buzzer. Off the bench, both Jeff Withey and Austin Rivers contributed immensely to the joy of those in attendance at the Smoothie King Center. Getting their chance to put their talents on display, Phoenix was the unlucky recipient of the former Kansas Jayhawk and Duke Blue Devil, respectively, nearly leading their team to victory.
Weathering a late 10-0 run from the Pelicans that put the Suns down by three with under five minutes remaining, it was the lethal duo of Bledsoe and Dragic that put the game on ice for the Suns. Both are dynamic in so many facets that come the Playoffs (should they be lucky enough to get there), they’ll be nearly impossible for any team to match up with. Now, if only the same could be said for the frontcourt, there would be aspirations beyond the first round.
Speaking of the frontcourt, once again, all was quiet on the offensive end. Outside of Markieff Morris going for 10 points and six rebounds off the bench, they simply played the role of warm bodies; as judged by the fact that the extremely defensive minded Jeff Withey went for 17 points. He won’t be nearly ready for significant minutes until the beginning of next season, but should Alex Len begin to pan out on his lottery status, the Suns offense will balance itself out.
Going into the night, the Suns must have liked their chances of increasing their lead over the Grizzlies. After all, they were facing the defending two-time NBA Champion Miami Heat. Reminding the rest of the NBA world that if they had Marc Gasol for the majority of the season they wouldn’t even be in this position, the Grizzlies defended their turf, knocking off the Heat. As it sits now, the Suns still have a one game lead over Memphis with four games remaining.
The next time Phoenix takes the court, it’ll be a potential playoff matchup as they clash with the San Antonio Spurs. As odd as it may sound, it may be the perfect opponent for a team in need of a win. Surely, the Spurs will not be pulling out all stops to win a game when they have already all but locked up the overall #1 seed.
Tune in 5:30 P.M. Friday night for another must-win game for the Suns. Stay tuned here at Heat Waved for your post-game analysis and all the Phoenix Suns news you’ll need.