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Ish Smith rallies Pelicans past Suns

You cannot stop Ish Smith, you can only hope to contain him

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

More like don't let the Suns go down on my winning streak am I right?

The Pelicans got their first road win of the season tonight in Phoenix and increased their win streak to three, though after the first quarter it appeared that New Orleans' road woes would continue. New Orleans lethargically started the game off and were down 9-0 before finally getting on the board. The Pelicans were for all intents and purposes put in a sleeperhold by the Suns in the first quarter thanks in large part to Brandon Knight's 8-10 shooting, 20 point eruption and trailed 39-25.

The Pelicans needed to get energy from somewhere and once again it was Ish Smith who provided the spark. Smith's energy transcended his six point, two assist line for the quarter. If you were just looking at raw numbers the only thing that would really impress you about Smith's second quarter was his 28-foot three pointer as the half expired to cut Phoenix's lead to two, but Smith's hustle epitomized just how hard the Pelicans fought in that second quarter to turn a 17-point deficit into a game.

The second half was about as back and forth as a 12-round boxing match being played at Wimbledon. The Pelicans and Suns traded jabs and uppercuts for the final 24 minutes of regulation but neither team could put together a game sealing run. Every possession was crucial because neither team could lead by more than two scores in the fourth quarter.

Tonight's win was a classic either team could've won type of game. In fact looking at the raw numbers from the box score, you'd think the Suns would've won this game. Phoenix had more rebounds, assists, fast break points and points in the paint, and turned the ball over fewer times. What ultimately proved to be New Orleans' saving grace was their superior shooting, 51 percent to Phoenix's 46, and getting to the free throw line more frequently than the Suns. The Pelicans made 26 free throws whereas the Suns only attempted 20 all night.

Moving forward the Pelicans continue this three game road trip to Los Angeles to play the Clippers Friday night. Los Angeles, like so many other playoff teams from last season, is struggling to pick up where they left off in 2014-15 and are currently 7-8 after losing to Utah by 11. At only three games back of those very same Clippers, the Pelicans have plenty of time to make up ground in the playoff race. Beating the Clippers at Staples Center would be a good way of declaring the Pelicans aren't in the business of tanking.

Game Notes

I'm not sure if we've run out of backhanded superlatives to describe the job Ish Smith has done this season or not, but tonight was maybe his finest effort as a professional. Smith recorded yet another double-double with 20 points and 11 assists. While a historically shaky shooter, tonight Smith was a clutch six of eight from the floor in the second half and hit both of his attempted three pointers including the aforementioned buzzer beater to cut Phoenix's lead to two at the half.

Where this version of this Ish Smith came from I don't know, but he's proving to be maybe the most important Pelican not named Anthony Davis this season. He's gone from endearing fan favorite to legitimate contributor for a team that isn't as dead as their record indicates.

While Ish Smith was good, Anthony Davis was better. Davis had 26 points and 17 rebounds tonight and it only took him 14 shots to get there. In the past two games against the Suns, Davis averaged 29 and 18. Tyson Chandler's absence meant Davis got to bully Alex Len and Markieff Morris all night long.

Another day, another 20 point, 50 percent shooting night for Ryan Anderson. Step-backs, layups, three pointers, it doesn't matter what type of shot it is Anderson's hitting them all.

Omer Asik only played 10 minutes tonight because you could not have fit his square peg into the round hole that was this game. Tyson Chandler's absence only further validated giving Asik an unintentional night off. Asik attempted his first field goal in four games and missed a dunk. WELP.

After starting the day as "doubtful," Tyreke Evans was ruled out tonight. Maybe the knee needs another day or so before he's ready to return.

Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon combined for 42 points on 46 percent shooting and made all 13 of their collective free throws. This Pelican backcourt is about to become so much more lethal when Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole come back from their injuries.

Once again foul trouble kept Alonzo Gee from contributing as much as you'd want in place of Quincy Pondexter. Gee was held scoreless and picked up four fouls in 16 minutes, including two in the opening 2:15.

Credit the Pelican defense for slowing down Phoenix after that first quarter barrage. Brandon Knight finished the game with 29 points but only scored nine in quarters two through four.

What the hell kind of name is Talking Stick Resort Arena? Stadium naming rights have gotten out of control.