PHOENIX, Ariz. — Winning helps. So too does having playmakers.
The first of those qualities was infrequent, while the second was lacking last season.
This season, the Phoenix Suns (14-9) do not have a problem with either, at least early on.
Goran Dragic is one of the few holdovers from a year ago. The sixth-year point guard was often left, as he put it, in a bad mood as his team suffered through a 57-loss season in 2012-13.
That frown has been turned upside down.
“I didn’t have that smile that I have now this year,” he said Tuesday. “This year I’m just feeling great. I have good chemistry with all of my teammates.”
That chemistry, specifically with fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe, has shined during the team’s ongoing, season-high five-game winning streak. The two playmakers, despite being from opposite ends of the earth — Dragic from Slovenia and Bledsoe from Alabama — have found common ground: The basketball court.
“I’m not thinking when I’m going to play. I’m just having fun,” Dragic said.
With Bledsoe’s playmaking ability, and generally a more athletic roster, Dragic is not being asked to do as much as he was last season. The pressure, to a certain extent, has been alleviated.
“I think last year, and maybe early this year, he was just trying to do it all himself. Now, he’s relying on his teammates,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s taking the shots when they’re there, and he’s knocking them down.”
Dragic is enjoying his best stretch of basketball as a Sun, even when counting his previous stint in the Valley.
Over his last three games, the 27-year-old guard is averaging 27 points while shooting 58.1 percent (25-of-43), including 66.7 percent (10-of-15) on 3-pointers. His 21-point performance against Golden State Sunday was his third straight game with 20 or more points — and the first time in his career he has made four or more 3-pointers in back-to-back games.
“He’s very confident. He’s taking what’s given to him,” Hornacek said. “When he’s off the ball and a kick-out pass comes to him, we’re pretty confident he’s going to make the shot, whereas last year he had to do everything off the dribble. And that’s a much more difficult shot — to try to shoot it off the dribble.”
The numbers back that Hornacek’s assessment.
Compared to last season, Dragic is scoring more than four more points a game (14.7 vs. 19.1) and shooting five percentage points higher (44.3 vs. 49.6). His accuracy from 3-point range has also improved, from a career-low 31.9 percent to 38.4 percent — his best mark since his second year in the NBA.
“This is my second year that I’m playing as a starter. I’m just more comfortable with everything,” he said, before walking toward the locker room smiling.