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Phoenix Suns’ Goran Dragic a game-time decision vs. New Orleans

PHOENIX — Missing one of your playmakers is tough enough to overcome.

Missing two is nearly impossible.

The Suns experienced the latter on Wednesday, when without both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, they suffered their second-worst defeat of the season, losing at Utah 109-86.

Bledsoe remains sidelined, though he may ramp up his knee rehabilitation to include five-on-five full court play as soon as practice on Saturday.

Dragic, meanwhile, continues to be bothered by a sprained right ankle and may miss his second straight game when the Suns host New Orleans (23-34) on Friday.

“He feels better today,” head coach Jeff Hornacek Friday morning. “He didn’t do anything in shootaround today. He’ll try it tonight and see.”

Dragic, who got hurt late against Minnesota Tuesday, is being officially called a game-time decision.

“It’s not 100 percent. I worry about that because I need to be 100 percent to play,” he said. “Hopefully the ankle is going to better. We’ve still got, what, six, seven hours so hopefully in those hours we can get better a little bit.”

While the swelling is minimal, Dragic said he woke up with the ankle feeling “really sore” and stiff.

“I’ve twisted it so many times, four or five times this season; it’s kind of a rough situation for me,” he said. “It’s just a different feeling, a different kind of pain because right now my ankle is really loose. Like I said, I did it four or five times. If I’m going to play today probably we’re going to have to tape it really strong. Maybe I’m going to lose a little bit of mobility, but that’s what it is.”

Dragic has yet to fully test the ankle either running or cutting, two movements he’ll try to make before a final decision is made on his playing status.

The Suns (33-24) do get some good news on the injury front.

Leandro Barbosa is expected to make his return. He’s missed the past four games because of a sprained left big toe.

Dragic, however, is the key.

The Suns are 2-2 without him on the floor, including the time he missed earlier in the season after spraining his left ankle.

“It’s tough, especially now when we were in such a great position and we are fighting for playoffs, so those games are really important for us. Not only me, every player wants to help,” he said. “We’ve lost three in a row. Hopefully tonight we’re going to come back with a win.

“At this stage of the competition we need every win.”

A better start would help.

Over the past four games, the Suns are a combined minus-27 after the first quarter.

“Our defense is really bad,” Dragic said. “It’s really tough to beat teams like that. We are shooting the ball well, but our defense — we are not on the same page. At the beginning of the games we are not focused enough. We allow them to score some easy baskets. They’re not like contested shots, but more layups or open threes. That’s our problem right now.”