Suns defeat Pelicans for fourth straight home win
PHOENIX -- There were expectations that Jeff Hornacek might set some Phoenix Suns coaching records this season, but not like this.
And the team's draft party next June might not be as interesting.
Guard Eric Bledsoe collected 18 of his 24 points in the second half, forward Markieff Morris continued his hot shooting run with 23 points off the bench, and Hornacek became the first coach in Suns history to win the first four home games of his tenure with a 101-94 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
The Suns, picked by many to battle for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, are now 5-2 overall. Phoenix swept the season series from the Pelicans (3-4) with its second win against New Orleans in six days, but they needed a 59-point second half to get the job done.
"It was not a pretty game but coach was talking after the game about how good teams win even when they play bad," said Phoenix guard Goran Dragic, who scored 12 points in 29 minutes after missing the past three games with an ankle sprain. "We didn't play well on offense or defense for periods of time but we still got the win."
The Pelicans can relate to the inconsistent play. Center Jason Smith had 14 of his 22 points in the first half and guards Jrue Holiday and Anthony Morrow had 16 each for New Orleans, but the Pelicans faltered after pulling within a point at 80-79 on a Morrow jumper with 6:30 left to play.
The Suns went on a 9-2 run from there and the Pelicans, who had won two straight since losing to the Suns 104-98 at home on Nov. 5, never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
"We had a chance to win the game," said forward Anthony Davis, who contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans. "We broke down a little bit defensively, a couple of back-doors and they hit some tough shots. That got the momentum going and the crowd got into it."
The Pelicans committed 17 turnovers and didn't get to the foul line until early in the third quarter.
"We just didn't have our best stuff tonight," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "Obviously you could complain about the whistles but that's not going to get you anywhere. We didn't make an effort to get to the basket. We fell in love with jump shots."
Morris, who hit nine of 12 shots Sunday, is now 30-for-38 (.750) from the field in his past three games. He joins Dwight Howard (Feb. 20-24, 2008) and Charles Barkley (Nov. 1-5, 1991) as the only NBA players to shoot .750 from the floor with at least 12 attempts per game since twin brothers Markeiff and Marcus Morris were born in 1989.
"I'm worried about the wins. My points and rebounds don't matter," Markieff Morris said. "I'm being more efficient; working with (assistant coach) Kenny Gattison to master two or three moves and to understand which shots I want to take. Anthony Davis had three fouls early and going to the basket was the right play."
But the Suns put the game away from outside late. After missing their first 10 3-pointers Sunday, the Suns hit seven of their last 12 from long range with guards Gerald Green, Dragic and Bledsoe all sinking long-range shots during a 15-6 run that won the game. Bledsoe's 3-pointer with 1:25 left, just before the shot clock expired, gave Phoenix a 95-85 lead, its biggest of a very tight game.
"I saw the time running down and I just tried to lock down and shoot with confidence," said Bledsoe, who had 25 points in the win in New Orleans.
Dragic returned after missing three games with a sprained left ankle and had 12 points in 29 minutes off the bench.
"I thought Goran did well," Hornacek said. "Obviously, being out awhile there is always a bit of rust. We played him 30 minutes and that is tough too. But he made a big three and did a nice job."
NOTES: Jeff Hornacek is the 17th head coach in Phoenix history. Jerry Colangelo (1969-70), John Wetzel (1987-88), Paul Westphal (1992-93) and Scott Skiles (1999-2000) all started 3-0 at home. ... New Orleans coach Monty Williams said F Ryan Anderson (broken toe) is getting closer to making his season debut. "It could be tomorrow. It could be a week," Williams said. ... Suns F Marcus and F Markeiff Morris have each scored in double figures in three straight games -- the first of the 11 brother teammates in NBA history to accomplish the feat. ... Sunday's games matched the NBA's two least experienced teams. The Pelicans players have an average of 168.4 career games while the Suns, including veteran F Emeka Okafor, who is not on the active roster, average 176 games. ... Hornacek is happy with his team's chemistry so far. "For a team that came off 25 wins (last year), to a guy that I talked to, they liked each other off the court but on the court they just didn't play well together."