Phoenix Suns Fall to New Orleans Pelicans 110-106

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Published: December 31, 2014

The New Orleans Pelicans improved their record to 16-15 with an exciting win over the visiting Phoenix Suns, 110-106.

The Pelicans led the Suns by as many as 14 late in the first quarter, but the Suns were simply a victim of their three-point shots not falling. Once that normalized, the scores tightened up, never reaching a double-digit differential again. It normalized quickly, too, with 3 three-point shots and 2 layups by the Suns in the last 3 minutes of the first quarter. The first quarter ended with the Pelicans up 31-25.

The game was tied as late as the 91s-to-go mark in the game. From then, the Pelicans played effectively on both ends, scoring on their own attempts, defending the Suns’ attempts while letting the clock tick away. Evans scored the first 8 points after the tie at 100, which was enough to win.

  • In the pregame post, I pointed to turnovers, free throws, and three-point shots. The Pelicans were keeping the Suns in check in these 3 areas as they trotted out to a 14 point lead. Relenting coincided with that lead vanishing.
    • In the end, the Pelicans lost the turnover batter 6-12.
    • The Pelicans sent the Suns to the line 19 times, slightly below what they average. As they hit free throws at an NBA-high 80% rate (15/19 tonight, which is right there), controlling attempts was noted as important.
    • Conversely, the Pelicans needed to get to the line and stick their free throws. They got there 29 times, which is above their own and the Suns’ opponents’ average. They did not, however, make around 75% of those shots, going only 18/29 (largely due to Asik’s 1/6 from the line). Those 3 or 4 more points could have been big in a game like this.
    • The Pelicans’ real success was limiting the Suns three-point attempts. The Suns average around 27 attempts per game, second in the NBA only the Rockets (34). Instead, their 21 attempts was much closer to what the Pelicans typically allow (19). Most importantly, the Suns were, by quarter, 3/7, 4/7, 2/4, 0/3, with the last shot of the game a 3 with 3 second left when the Suns were down 4. I fully expected a barrage of three-pointers at the end, but it never showed up.
  • Davis had 19 points, 18 rebounds. The next highest rebounders in the game all had 8: Asik, Bledsoe, Evans. Davis’ 7/15 from the field is not as incandescently spectacular as some of his really efficient nights, but his rebounding was critical. He was also providing some mid-range and long shooting, which was really important. Davis also played the entire second half, resting during in game minutes only for the first 6 minutes of the second quarter.
  • Ryan Anderson matched Davis’ 19 points. He scored 3 three-pointers, added 5 shots close to the rim. The Suns had no answer for the Pelicans inside (Asik was 5/6, scoring 11 even after going 1/6 from the line, for example), as reflected by the 58 points in the paint.
  • Evans and Holiday had field days, making it hard to say who was the better guard on this night (I was asked). They combined for 43 points on 33 shots, 10 assists, 5 turnovers, 3 steals, 11 rebounds, while committing 8 fouls. They also sparked the team right when they needed it at various points. Interestingly, Dragic and Bledsoe had similar combined statistics.
  • Jimmer Fredette played a good game. His 21 minutes was his most as a Pelican. He had a nice line (9 points on 7 shots, 4 assists), and he showed some defense, and hustle. It wasn’t just frenetic hustle either. It may have been a good matchup on a good day, but he may be getting past whatever it was that was bothering him. He showed some confidence, and he kept playing after some errors of the effort type and the bonehead type. Keep an eye on this.
  • There were some great Pelicans plays in the game, but Dante Cunningham had a great steal late. He totally jump into the lane, but he just knew he had it. He snagged it and savored it for just a tick. The steal led to the score that put the Pelicans up 4 with 49s left to play.

The Pelicans play in San Antonio tomorrow against a Spurs team that lost to Memphis tonight. Both teams have overnight travel after their games tonight. Meanwhile, the Suns are playing in Oklahoma City against a team that is not on a back-to-back and does not play again until Friday. A Pelicans win and a Suns’ would put the Pelicans in the 8th seed and just a game behind the 7th seed Spurs, all going into a January and a 2015 ripe with potential.

Be sure to read our review of the team after 30 games and for a couple of nice features over the coming days.

I have the coverage tomorrow, too. See you then.

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