Defense, Clutch Play Keeps Suns Undefeated At Home

Barry Gossage/NBAE

The Suns clung to their defense while waiting for their offense to show up.

When it did, it was more than enough to snag their second win over the Pelicans in less than a week.

Phoenix (5-2) pulled away in the fourth quarter behind the increasingly common sights of Eric Bledsoe’s crunch-time chops and Markieff Morris’ aggressiveness. The result was a 101-94 win at US Airways Center, where the Suns are a sparkling 4-0.

The win came despite Phoenix shooting just 34.8 percent in the first half, a mark made more bearable thanks to their effort on the other end. They forced 11 New Orleans turnovers before the break and finished the game with 10 steals and 11 blocks.

“We’ve just got a will to win,” said Miles Plumlee (eight points, 12 rebounds, five blocks) after the game. Bledsoe shot 7-of-11 for 24 points to go along with

six assists and four rebounds. Morris added 23 points, his third consecutive game of at least that many in the scoring column.

The Suns also got a boost from the return of Goran Dragic. The Slovenian point guard had missed the three previous games with a sprained ankle, but he finished with 12 points and three assists in 30 minutes off the bench for Phoenix.

Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said Dragic’s return and temporary bench role factored into the offense’s slow start.

“Guys were in a little bit of a rhythm these last three games,” Hornacek said. “When you bring a guy back, the rotations change a little bit and guys are with different guys. They still got the win.”

“Goran’s a big piece of this team,” Bledsoe added. “He’s the co-captain along with me…we need Goran. We know he was hurt, but he’s coming back, we’ve got to get him into a rhythm.”

That was especially visible in the game’s final stages. Dragic repeatedly raced out after New Orleans misses, and his desire to run proved contagious. Bledsoe found Morris early in the offense, threading a pass through traffic that led to a dunk. Gerald Green then answered a Jrue Holiday jumper with a three-pointer. Bledsoe followed with a perfectly placed bank shot from just inside the three-point arc.

The defense continued to feed the Suns’ running game. Miles Plumlee came up with three of his game-high five blocks in the final 2:41. His first led to a Dragic three-pointer in the corner, putting Phoenix up 92-84 with 2:33 left.

Bledsoe kept up the momentum, nailing what is becoming his trademark, late-game three-pointer from straightaway. After Eric Gordon answered with a three of his own, Gerald Green found Bledsoe cutting backdoor, and the point guard scored on the easy layup.

Green finished off the win with a vicious slam and a pair of free throws.

“It was a grind-it-out win,” Morris said. “We were shooting the ball pretty bad, but we picked it up and got the win.”