Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns

Published: February 28, 2014

Well, I certainly didn’t see it. Phoenix enters tonight’s game at a 33-24 record, good for 8th in the West and a far cry from what I expected the team to be. But I wasn’t alone. Las Vegas has Phoenix’s expected record at around 21 wins for the season.

Phoenix is exceeding expectations under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, thanks in large part to Goran Dragic, who is having a terrific season. Dragic is scoring 20 points per game and dishing out 6 assists while registering a True Shooting % of 60%.

Dragic missed Wednesday’s game and I have not found any update on his status for tonight, but obviously, his presence is hugely impactful on tonight’s game.  The same can be said for Anthony Davis, who I have not heard an update on. I will stay close to the computer and post updates below this paragraph when I see them.

Unfortunately, my post is highly continent on whether Dragic is playing, because it just isn’t the same team without him. Eric Bledsoe, their other high-quality guard, has missed a large portion of the season, but Dragic has carried them just fine.

So what does Phoenix do well?

  1. Shoot 3s
    Phoenix’s 3 point percentage isn’t outstanding, but it’s respectable, and they jack 3 pointers without hesitation. Channing Frye is an excellent shooting stretch 4 and dynamic athlete Gerald Green is throwing up a high volume of 3s as well. Phoenix’s shooting is driven (ha!) in large part by Dragic, who excels at carving up defenses off the dribble.
  2. Push the Pace
    Phoenix features some very, very good athletes and loves to push the pace. While pace has been something of a buzzword this season for the Pelicans, it is unmistakably true that you need ball-handlers capable of pushing the pace for it to be effective. Phoenix’s Dragic and Bledsoe can do just that (but again, Bledsoe will be out). It also doesn’t hurt to have high-flyers like Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee running the floor.
  3. Defend the 3 point line
    Phoenix is one of the league’s best at defending the 3 point line, as opponents are only shooting 35% from the corner and around 32% from above the break.

Fortunately for the Pelicans, the Phoenix Suns are very generous in sending their opponents to the line. Phoenix ranks 4th in Opponents’ FTA rate (guess who leads it!!!) and Pelicans guards should be able to get to the free throw line effectively tonight. Of course, that will be made much harder should Anthony Davis not play, as the Pelicans would have bigs with little skill crowding the paint and clogging it for drivers.

Tonight would be a good night to play Luke Babbitt heavy minutes, as Channing Frye and the other Phoenix 4s spend the majority of their time away from the rim. You don’t need to make 3s to open up space, you just have to be a threat to make them, and Babbitt can do that.

Stretching the floor also opens up opportunities for players like Anthony Davis to crash the offensive boards, and Phoenix ranks 25th in the league in defensive rebounding, so there should be opportunities.

The lowly Utah Jazz waxed the Dragic-less Phoenix Suns the other night, so if he sits, this is definitely a winnable game. If he plays, this is a tough road test for the Pelicans.



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