Pelicans flip switch, Suns unable to defend in second half of home loss
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are going to have to be opportunistic to win games the rest of the season and they had an opportunity on Friday night.
The New Orleans Pelicans are in disarray fresh off Anthony Davis’ public trade request and showed a shocking amount of lifelessness on the court in the first half.
Phoenix played an OK half and was most importantly far more engaged than the opponent. But the problem was only a one-point lead, so when the Pelicans somewhat begrudgingly flipped a switch in the second half, the Suns couldn’t answer.
Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday was the leader of that charge, refusing to lose to a 12-50 Suns team and outplaying everyone on the court in a 130-116 Suns loss.
In the first half, the Suns only shot 40.4 percent and that was their downfall. With the low, low caliber of defense Phoenix plays, the offense needs to bail them out.
It didn’t Friday night and the Pelicans got enough good looks (57.5 percent shooting from the field) and shot well enough from 3-point range (59.3 percent) to put the Suns away.
“I feel like we played to the energy of the game,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “I feel like both teams early on didn’t have a lot of energy early on and we fed into that and it was a downward spiral since then.”
The Pelicans scored 38 of their 74 second-half points in a third quarter that included them getting a bucket on their first nine possessions. Thirteen of those points were via Holiday and another 16 were Julius Randle’s doing.
Deandre Ayton cited that quarter as a moment he realized the Pelicans “turned up” and referenced an “on and off switch.”
“They had us scrambling,” he said.
Davis is on a minutes restriction, meaning he only played the first 8:31 of the second half and did not return. He posted 17 points in 21 minutes.
Holiday’s energy and the strong shooting was enough to get the Pelicans a win. He had a cool, calm and collected 21 points, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals.
The Suns lacked efficiency from Devin Booker (6-of-17) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (8-for-22), their two top scorers with T.J. Warren still out because of a bone bruise in his right ankle. Because of a 13-for-14 effort at the free throw line, Booker still managed 26 points.
On the bright side, Troy Daniels played well in his second straight game back in the rotation, scoring 15 points in 17 minutes.