The New Orleans Pelicans are where the Phoenix Suns were aiming to be just a few weeks ago.
With their 90-75 win over the Suns on Friday, the Pelicans moved into playoff contention, sitting in the eighth and final Western Conference spot. Just a few weeks back, the Suns were neck and neck with them and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who share the same record as the Pelicans, but were unable to make the push.
Bad third quarter after bad third quarter haunted them, as did their all-too-frequent letdowns when playing inferior teams.
The Suns arrived at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Friday with a 39-40 record in tow. They weren’t in playoff contention but, with a win, had a chance to finish above .500 on the season.
Despite not having to face an injured Anthony Davis for almost the entire second and third quarters, the Suns were heavily outrebounded, thanks to an 18-board effort from Omer Asik. Led by Eric Bledsoe’s 19, they scored just 34 points in an anemic second half.
New Orleans was never without the lead after taking a 17-16 lead late in the first quarter.
Here’s a look at the loss by the numbers:
The Suns have two games left in the season. If they win both, they’ll finish 41-41. That will be a tall task, though, as they are set to play the Spurs in San Antonio next before hosting the season finale Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday returned to action Friday after a 41-game absence. He logged two points and five assists in 16 minutes of action.
The Suns shot just 10 free throws Friday, making eight. Only twice this season have they attempted less. They have lost six of eight games in which they’ve attempted 12 or less.
Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 20 points and 20 rebounds on Friday. They also combined to shoot 8-of-26 from the field, contributing to the team’s overall poor shooting performance. Marcus was just 3-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-6 from the free throw line. He and fellow forward T.J. Warren had the team’s worst plus-minus marks of the night.
The Suns pulled down just 43 rebounds Friday. Asik and the Pelicans had 56.