No thanks to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks regained the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference Tuesday night with an overtime victory, putting the pressure back on the Phoenix Suns to get another road win in order to reclaim their playoff spot. Because of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, AKA the “Super Slash Brothers,” the Suns of Anarchy were able to do just that against another one of the NBA’s best young backcourts – John Wall and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
Using a major third quarter run, the Suns were able to extend a 10-point halftime lead to 71-48 with seven minutes to play in the period. But Wall and the Wizards came to life after that, rattling off a 21-8 run to close the quarter and pull Washington within 10 heading into the final period. But even though Wall looked like the All-Star point guard we know him to be down the stretch, it was Bledsoe and Dragic who emerged with the win by draining a couple of critical threes and getting out on the fast break.
The Super Slash Brothers combined for 48 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, six 3s and three steals in the victory. Dragic led the way with 25 points, seven boards, six assists and a block to finish +15 for the game while Bledsoe followed up with 23 points, six rebounds and seven dimes. Dragic went 11-for-17 from the floor and Bledsoe shot 8-for-18 to make it his fourth game in a row with 20+ points. In other words, it was the kind of vintage Super Slash Brothers performance that Suns fans have been yearning for the majority of the 2013-14 season.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 25, 2014
It wasn’t just the raw numbers that impressed either. Dragic and Bledsoe continually came up big for Phoenix when the Wizards threatened to fully erase a deficit that grew as large as 25 points in the third quarter. Despite the late game heroics of John Wall to keep Washington within striking distance, the Bledsoe-Dragic tandem consistently answered with a counterattack to help the Suns win their fifth straight game.
When the Wizards cut Phoenix’s lead to four with seven minutes to play, Bledsoe found Gerald Green for a huge three. Bledsoe then fed Dragic for a backbreaking three on the Suns’ ensuing possession to push the lead back to 10. An Eric Bledsoe steal on the next play led to an absurd reverse layup in transition from Dragic that probably should’ve been a three-point play. When that 12-point lead with five and a half minutes to play quickly shrank to three with a minute and a half to go, but Bledsoe nailed a dagger three from his mother-in-law’s house off an assist from Dragic to essentially put the game away. The Suns have yet to blow a lead of 14 points of more this season.
We knew Bledsoe’s return would eventually provide a boost to a Suns team that had just barely fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture, but I don’t think anybody knew he’d look this good, this fast. The difference between the Suns with Bledsoe and without Bledsoe is truly staggering. When Bledsoe was out, Dragic basically had to carry the load and the team was running on Dragon fumes. But with Bledsoe back, the Suns have another clutch fourth quarter scorer, a dynamic playmaker and someone who can get out on the break and run.
In what Dragic has referred to as his most physically taxing season yet, Bledsoe’s return provides some relief. Defenses now have two dynamic point guards to worry about and though his numbers have taken a slight hit, the Dragon will certainly be better rested for the playoffs now that the pressure to facilitate the offense isn’t fully placed on him anymore.
During Phoenix’s current five-game win streak, which includes a 3-0 road trip, Bledsoe is averaging 18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 44 percent from the field. Dragic is posting 20 points, 5.6 assists, three rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor and 10-for-18 from three-point range. In other words, these Super Slash Brothers are showing why they should be considered one of the best backcourts (if not THE best backcourt) in the NBA.
Not convinced yet? Here are some convincing facts:
- The Suns have won 17 of the last 21 games that Bledsoe and Dragic have played in
- Phoenix is 23-10 this season with both Dragic and Bledsoe in the starting lineup
- Dragic and Bledsoe are the highest scoring backcourt for the Phoenix Suns since Jeff Hornacek and Kevin Johnson in 1991-92
- Per Basketball-reference.com, Bledsoe and Dragic are two of just 10 players in the league to average at least 17 points and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor
Backcourts like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State, or John Wall and Bradley Beal
or especially Russell Westbrook and James Harden in Oklahoma City get a lot more hype, but it’s time the larger NBA audience starts considering the Phoenix Suns’ backcourt among the best in the league. The Super Slash Brothers probably would already be in consideration had Bledsoe not missed so many games, but if the Suns manage to pull off this fairy tale season and make the playoffs to shock the world, it’ll be because of Dragic and Bledsoe.
Bledsoe/Dragic: 37.7 points, 11.7 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 41.5 PER
Curry/Thompson: 41.7 points, 10.8 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 37.2 PER
Wall/Beal: 37.0 points, 12.1 assists, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 34.1 PER