One down, four to go. So go ahead and exhale for a second, Phoenix Suns fans. Like I predicted in my game-by-game breakdown of Phoenix’s final five games of the season, last night’s road matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans – a team completely decimated by injuries – was a potential trap game. And although it was uglier than Anthony Davis‘ unibrow, an ugly win is still better than a pretty loss. Since the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat at home last night, it was a very good thing Phoenix didn’t end up dropping this one.
By joining Memphis in last night’s win column, the Suns maintained a one-game lead on the Grizzlies for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The win also moved Phoenix within half a game of the Dallas Mavericks, who play the Tony Parker-less San Antonio Spurs tomorrow night. The kind of effort Phoenix put forth last night isn’t going to cut it in any of the Suns’ last four games, but Jeff Hornacek‘s squad executed well enough down the stretch to secure a victory against an admittedly weak Pelicans crew.
Gerald Green led Phoenix with 21 points off the bench while Goran Dragic had 20 points and nine assists against a NOLA squad playing without The Brow, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson or Jason Smith. Eric Bledsoe scored all 16 of his points in the second half and P.J. Tucker added 15 of his own. The win helped the Suns sweep New Orleans 4-0 on the season.
— Espo (@Espo) April 10, 2014
Defensively, and from a general, all-around effort standpoint, it was a pretty ugly night for the Suns. When Jeff Withey is putting up 17 points against your interior defense, that’s a problem. When Austin Rivers is carving up your pick and roll defense to the point it nearly causes viewers like myself to projectile vomit, that’s a problem. And when your highly touted bench is actually outscored by the likes of Luke Babbitt, Jeff Withey, Austin Rivers and Anthony Morrow, that’s a problem. Luckily for the Suns, Tyreke Evans made some dumb decisions down the stretch and Phoenix was well coached enough to execute in the game’s final possessions and get the W.
If there’s any bright side to take from last night’s nail biting, it-should-never-have-been-that-close cardiac arrest slugfest, it’s that the Suns always play to the level of their competition and are fully capable of executing down the stretch of games without playing in front of a roaring home crowd. Dragic scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and was virtually non-existent after that…until the Suns got out on the fast break with the game on the line and the Dragon started breathing fire again to combat New Orleans’ 10-0 run in the fourth.
Bledsoe struggled mightily in the first but gave the Suns enough offense in the second to help Phoenix come out on top. Green continued to be a spark off the bench for Phoenix. Markieff Morris hit a huge shot in the game’s final 1:30 to put the Suns up by three. For the most part, this game was an apple that fell way off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. But a win is a win, and as long as that same kind of dismal effort doesn’t carry over into Phoenix’s upcoming road game against San Antonio, all that matters is the Suns avoided a huge potential letdown for their playoff hopes. One down, four to go.