Dragic’s career-high 40 leads Suns past Pelicans
PHOENIX — Goran Dragic almost didn’t play Friday night.
On a bad ankle, with his Phoenix team needing to end a three-game skid, he decided to give it a try.
The result was a career-high 40-point performance in 42 minutes, leading the Suns past the New Orleans Pelicans 116-104.
"I think everybody knows about Goran Dragic now," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, "or they should."
A game-time decision because of a sore right ankle that had kept him out of Wednesday’s loss at Utah, Dragic played all but the last 10 seconds of the second half in the first 40-point game for a Phoenix player since Amare Stoudemire’s 44 on March 19, 2010.
"That’s what All-Stars do," Hornacek said, a not-so-veiled reference to Dragic being left off the All-Star team.
At the end, as Dragic sank the free throws that got him to 40, the crowd chanted "M-V-P."
"I never imagined they would cheer that for me," Dragic said. "It is a great feeling, especially with those last four free throws when the whole crowd stood up and cheered. It is something special in my career that I will remember my whole life."
Anthony Davis, also a game-time decision because of a sprained left shoulder, matched his career high with 32 points for the Pelicans, who lost their sixth in a row.
Markieff Morris added 18 points and twin brother Marcus 15 for Phoenix.
Eric Gordon scored 21 for New Orleans.
"We just couldn’t get the stops, we just couldn’t get the ball," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "Dragic was in our paint all night long. He’s a really good player, but we could have done a better job."
Dragic, who had expressed some doubt after the morning shootaround that he would be able to play, had a career-best 35 in the Suns’ loss to Houston on Sunday. He hurt his ankle in the home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.
He had 15 points in the first quarter, 25 in the second half, including 13 in the fourth quarter, surpassing 30 points in a game for the eighth time this season.
Phoenix took control with a 17-1 fourth-quarter run. Dragic banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then sank an 18-footer to cap the outburst and put the Suns ahead 105-92 with 4:33 left.
When he banked in that 3, he grabbed his head with both hands.
"When you’re hot," he said, "sometimes you feel it and luck is on your side."
Phoenix looked to be in trouble late in the third quarter.
The Pelicans used a 15-1 run to go up 77-67 on Austin Rivers’ two free throws with 2:59 left in the period.
But Phoenix outscored the Pelicans 14-4 the rest of the quarter. Marcus Morris scored the first seven in the run, Dragic sank a 3, then made a driving layup to tie it at 81-81 entering the fourth quarter.
New Orleans took a four-point lead early in the fourth and was up 91-88 on Brian Roberts’ driving layup with 9:47 remaining. Phoenix, though, scored the next six. Dragic hit on a drive, then Markieff Morris made consecutive layups and the Suns led 94-91 with 8:13 left.
Neither team led by more than seven points in a first half bereft of defense, with the Suns up 56-54 at the break.
New Orleans shot 58 percent in the half (22 of 38), Phoenix 56 percent (20 of 36).
In the second quarter, nobody led by more than four. Al-Farouq Aminu’s two free throws put the Pelicans up 50-47 with 2:14 left in the half, then the Suns scored seven straight, P.J. Tucker’s 3-pointer giving Phoenix a 54-50 lead 52.9 seconds before the break.
Gordon’s layup at the buzzer was ruled no good and the call was upheld on review, preserving Phoenix’s two-point edge.
New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans was a late arrival after getting stuck in the hotel elevator for a half-hour. He arrived about an hour before the opening tip.
"Next time I come to Phoenix," he said, "I will take the steps."
The Suns’ Leandro Barbosa missed his fourth straight game with a sprained toe.