The Phoenix Suns were missing several backcourt players Wednesday night in Salt Lake City: Eric Bledsoe, Leandro Barbosa and — most noticeably of all — Goran Dragic.
While Phoenix has stayed afloat since Bledsoe had to undergo knee surgery in early January, the absence of Dragic was too much to overcome, as the team was routed by Utah Jazz 109-86 — the Suns’ second-worst loss of the year.
Dragic injured his ankle the night before in the third quarter at home against Minnesota. The Suns’ leading scorer later returned, but fouled out with just over seven minutes left in the contest, which was also a loss for Phoenix.
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek admitted before the Utah game that he probably shouldn’t have sent Dragic back in the Minnesota game. The team’s president of basketball operations, Lon Babby, joined The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and said that the six-year guard had the desire to play Wednesday against the Jazz, but the team’s training staff couldn’t sign off on him taking the court.
“One thing about Goran is that if he has any chance of playing, he’ll be out there. He actually wanted to play last night, and we wouldn’t let him,” Babby said Thursday. “He has a lot of ‘want to,’ so he’ll be out there. I’m sure if he’s able to play, there would be no question that he’d try it on Friday [at home against New Orleans].”
Dragic is listed as day-to-day in the meantime, and has a chance to return against the Pelicans, as the Suns will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak.
On the bright side in Wednesday’s game, rookie Archie Goodwin received a season-best 27 minutes against the Jazz and responded by tying his career-high with 16 points. He also added seven rebounds, two steals and a block.
Ish Smith started in place of Dragic, and although he didn’t shoot well from the field (5-for-15), he finished with 13 points, five assists and a career-high eight rebounds in the loss.
Babby said that the team’s losing skid shouldn’t be cause for alarm. He pointed out that Phoenix had a four-game losing streak in November and a three-game skid in January.
The Suns won four of five to break the four-game slide in November, and they went 8-2 after their last three-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve done the previous two times, and that’s be resilient and fight back,” he said. “Look, it’s getting harder. First of all, we’re a little banged up, but so are a lot of other teams. But it gets harder because every game is more important; that creates a little bit more pressure. And I think the teams we play against are playing harder too as we down to the final, you know, quarter of a season.
“So we’ll be resilient. We’ll fight back, and we’ll see where it takes us.”