The Pelicans will travel to Phoenix tonight and play in front of a national audience (ESPN) for the second time in as many games. However, fans may be disappointed by the lack of star power as both Anthony Davis and Goran Dragic are likely game time decisions. Dragic missed the Suns last game against Utah due to a sprained right ankle and Davis left the game Wednesday with a sprained left shoulder. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, Dragic's chances to play appear to be higher.
The Suns have lost 3 in a row but if Dragic can suit up, the odds in changing that tune will be overwhelmingly in their favor. Despite being without the services of Eric Bledsoe since the start of 2014, the Suns have stayed in the playoff picture thanks to the spectacular play of "The Dragon." Since the New Year, Dragic has played like an All-Star: 22.1 PPG, 6.5 AST, 4.1 REB, 1.5 STL and 2.0 3PM. Perhaps the most impressive stat has been his 53.0 FG%. That's incredibly rare territory for point guards.
Not surprisingly, Phoenix boasts the 4th best backcourt efficiency differential in the league (+7.2). They've been able to survive Bledsoe's injury in large part due to Gerald Green. As a starter, he has chipped in 16.5 PPG, 3.7 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.1 STL and 2.3 3PM a game.
3 keys to the game:
- Anthony Davis. We need our franchise player in the lineup but if he can't go, several other Pelicans are going to need to step up big. Lately, Alexis Ajinca has shown signs of flourishing offensively off the bench (so please don't start him Monty) but it'd probably make the most sense to give Luke Babbitt the start. The Suns starting PF, Channing Frye, is one of the best stretch 4's in the game, so replacing Davis with a less mobile big makes absolutely no sense in the world.
- Stick to the Suns backcourt like glue. As mentioned, the Suns strongest point of attack is from their guards. At the very least, it'd be beneficial to limit the amount of good looks for Dragic and Green. The Suns average a 4th-best 9.2 three's a game, thus it's paramount to run them off the arc.
- Destroy the paint. The Suns give up a whopping 46.4 points in the paint. Even if Davis remains sidelined, the Pelicans have to pound the middle. Asides contributions from Ajinca, Al-Farouq Aminu could make his presence felt if he's able to channel his athleticism correctly.