NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While the search for a new coach and getting the best-possible lottery spot are on the minds of many Phoenix Suns fans, finishing strong is the top priority for the current coach and players.
Archie Goodwin scored 24 points and Mizra Teletovic added 22 to lead the Suns past the New Orleans Pelicans 121-100 in a matchup of lottery-bound teams Saturday night, giving Phoenix consecutive road victories for only the second time this season.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and other stuff going on, but we continue to fight through them,” Goodwin said. “It just shows the character of this team.
“No matter what’s going on, we’re staying positive.”
With 16 points, Suns rookie guard Devin Booker reached 1,014 for the season, making him the fourth-youngest player to reach 1,000 in his career, following only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
Phoenix (22-58) never trailed Saturday and, after going on a 10-2 to begin the second half, was not threatened while handing New Orleans (30-50) its worst home loss of the year.
However, the victory put the Suns behind Brooklyn (21-58) for the No. 3 spot in the lottery with two games remaining, both at home. The Nets play at Indiana on Sunday.
Along with juggling for draft position, the Suns will have a coaching decision to make after the season. Earl Watson has served as interim coach since the firing of Jeff Hornacek on Feb. 1, but there is little expectation that he’ll be retained.
“That’s just not on our minds right now,” Goodwin said. “The coaching thing is out of our control and we’re going to keep playing hard until the end. That’s a big part of being a professional.”
“Our team was motivated,” he said. “We had our TV on during the pregame show and they were talking about how the Pelicans play down to the level of their competition. It was kind of disrespectful, so we used that as motivation to get better and take a step in the right direction.”
For New Orleans, the loss came the night after the Pelicans had defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 110-102, in Kobe Bryant’s final appearance here.
Saturday’s game was played in an arena that was two-thirds empty and the fans who were in attendance made the most noise at the end, when the Pelicans reached 100 points — earning everyone free chicken fingers.
On top of that, New Orleans’ injury-depleted roster left the Pelicans with only nine players available.
“I think fatigue was the main thing tonight,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We just played five games in seven days. “We don’t have any depth and some of our guys were struggling. Phoenix’s record isn’t what they’d like it to be, but they’re a good offensive team and it took its toll on us.”
Toney Douglas and James Ennis, two of the four players on New Orleans’ roster who began the season in the D-League, had 23 and 18 points respectively to lead the Pelicans.
Suns: Phoenix finished 9-32 in road games. … Suns G Brandon Knight underwent surgery Thursday for a sports hernia and will miss the rest of the season. Both of Knight’s seasons in Houston have ended with surgeries in April.
Pelicans: New Orleans signed Ennis for the rest of the season. He has three starts in his seven games.
The Suns host Sacramento on Monday in their second-to-last game of the year.
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