Pelicans.com postgame: Suns 101, Pelicans 94
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
PHOENIX – For the second time this week, New Orleans experienced first-hand why Phoenix has arguably been the NBA’s biggest surprise team early in the 2013-14 regular season. Just five days after the Suns handed the Pelicans a defeat in New Orleans, they again sank numerous perimeter shots in crunch time, improving their record in Arizona to a perfect 4-0.
New Orleans (3-4) remained within striking distance for nearly the entire game, but a late surge by Phoenix (5-2) decided the outcome. The Pelicans had won their previous two games, posting impressive double-digit victories over Memphis and the Lakers.
After playing from behind all Sunday night, New Orleans crept within 84-81 with four-plus minutes remaining. From there, Phoenix – ice-cold from the perimeter earlier – started draining difficult shots over the New Orleans defense. The Suns’ Gerald Green, who sank six three-pointers in Tuesday’s matchup in the Crescent City, this time nailed a back-breaking, high-degree-of-difficulty trey over shot-blocking force Anthony Davis to beat the 24-second-clock buzzer. Eric Bledsoe followed with what appeared to be an unintentionally banked-in 20-footer, prior to Goran Dragic’s corner three. The Dragic trey capped an 8-3 run over a two-minute span, finally giving the Suns some breathing room at 92-84.
“They hit some tough shots,” Monty Williams said of the Suns, who were picked by many to finish in last place in the Western Conference. “A couple of those shots you’d be like, ‘Shoot them.’ They banked in a shot and then Gerald Green hits a shot off a pump fake. What can you say?”
“They got that momentum going,” said Davis, who posted 14 points and 12 rebounds but again did not shoot well vs. Phoenix, at 5-for-13. “The crowd got into it.”
In a contest Williams later described as “two teams playing an ugly game,” the Pelicans turned in one of their roughest offensive performances of the young season. New Orleans had difficulty stringing together quality possessions, partly due to committing 17 turnovers. The Pelicans also only attempted 13 free throws – none in the opening half, when they only mustered 38 points – and had a rare poor shooting night from three-point range. New Orleans entered Sunday as the No. 1 team in the NBA in three-point percentage, but was 4-for-13 (31 percent) against Phoenix.
Jason Smith (22 points on 9-for-12 shooting, 8 rebounds) and Anthony Morrow (16 points, 7-for-11 shooting, 2 of 4 on three-pointers) were bright spots for the starters and second unit, respectively. Jrue Holiday netted 16 points and dished out seven assists despite the fact that the Pelicans did not click on offense until the second half.
“It’s one of those games when shots aren’t falling and we have to rely on our defense,” Morrow said of the team overall. “It got away from us at the end. (Phoenix) can make shots, they have a lot of guys that can shoot threes. We stuck with the gameplan but that kind of got away from us at the end when they made some tough shots.”