Phoenix has plenty of needs right now. They need their backcourt (Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe) healthy. They need their defense (once top-10 in the league) to rediscover its edge.
Most of all, though, the Suns need a win.
Enter the Pelicans, who have provided Phoenix with a victory in each of their previous two meetings. Furthermore, New Orleans could be without the services of All-Star big man Anthony Davis due to a sprained shoulder earlier this week.
Will the Suns take advantage? Here are five factors that could swing the answer to their favor.
Much of this depends on the health of Goran Dragic, without whom Phoenix sputtered to just 86 points against the lowly Jazz on Wednesday.
Dragic indicated to Suns.com and via Twitter he’s doing everything he can to be available for Friday’s game. Whether he is or isn’t, the Suns need to improve on the 38.8 percent shooting and 14 assists they put forth at Utah.
52.6, 48.3 and 56.8. Those are the shooting percentages yielded to the Rockets, Timberwolves and Jazz, respectively, over the last three games.
Phoenix is capable of better. Much better. They were a top-10 defense for the first half of the season, and still hold opponents to an average of 45 percent shooting.
If the Suns can tighten things up on that end of the floor, snapping their current three-game losing streak will become a much easier feat.
This one’s a repeat from the previous game preview, but it bears mentioning again: the Suns haven’t seen a frontcourt starter (P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye or Miles Plumlee) score in double figures since their last in over the Spurs.
There are enough factors in place to think that trend will end tonight. Channing Frye, who has shot 40 percent from downtown all year, is battling his first true cold spell of the season. P.J. Tucker’s corner threes are no longer a secret. Ditto for Miles Plumlee and his athletic rolls to the rim.
Still, Phoenix needs more from at least one of them, especially if Dragic is unable to go.
While both ended up as wins for Phoenix, the two previous meetings with the Pelicans were close due in large part to role players doing more harm than usual.
Jason Smith poured in 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in their most recent encounter. The game before, it was Brian Roberts coming off the bench for 17 points, five assists and three steals.
If the Suns can clamp down on New Orleans’ less-reliable options, the Pelicans will be hard-pressed to match Phoenix point-for-point.
The Suns’ youngest player has made his presence felt, recently, averaging over 11 points on better than 58 percent shooting over the last four games.
His cutting off the basket and drives with the ball have given Phoenix a dynamic, athletic option off the bench. If he can continue to do that, he’ll not only earn more minutes from Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, but maybe a win for the Suns as well.
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