Suns go for two in row as Pelicans visit
The Phoenix Suns have had a few days to enjoy their first victory in 18 games.
They return to action when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, four days after they beat the Heat in Miami 124-121 for their first victory since Jan. 12. After ending the longest losing streak in franchise history, Phoenix will try to beat the Pelicans and get back-to-back wins for the first time since a four-game winning streak in mid-December.
"It feels like we were in prison," Suns guard Devin Booker said. "Now we're out."
They escaped against the Heat thanks to a 40-point fourth quarter that completed a 72-point second half.
"We played desperate, we played with a sense of urgency and we came not just to play -- we came to win a game," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. "And I'm glad we did."
The Suns didn't take a lead until the fourth quarter.
The game went back and forth until Booker made two free throws to put Phoenix on top by a point with 17 seconds remaining. After a Dwyane Wade miss, Kelly Oubre Jr. made two free throws to extend the lead, and Wade's desperation heave from the backcourt missed.
"We're ecstatic," forward Troy Daniels said. "It's been a long time coming. We've just been working every day trying to get better, pushing each other and calling each other out."
Booker, however, was listed as questionable Thursday after leaving practice with a left big toe sprain.
It has been less than a week since the Pelicans' last win, but victories have been harder to come by than they expected this season.
After advancing to the second round of the playoffs last season, New Orleans was confident of another trip to the postseason.
But a rash of injuries to several key players helped drop the Pelicans near the bottom of the Western Conference, then All-Star forward Anthony Davis demanded a trade in late January.
New Orleans has dropped Davis' minutes nearly in half, from about 38 per game before the trade demand to about 20. He has been held out of the fourth quarter of each of the last two games -- a 111-110 home loss to Philadelphia on Monday and a 125-119 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
"It's tough not being out on the floor, especially in crunch-time situations," said Davis, who finished with 22 points in 20 minutes.
Julius Randle scored 35 points, Jrue Holiday added 19 points and 10 assists, Frank Jackson had 15 points and Darius Miller 11. They were among the six Pelicans who each played more minutes than Davis.
"You have a group of guys that are trying to establish themselves in the league," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's like, this is my opportunity to play, this is my opportunity to shine, so I'm going to do everything I can so I'm noticed out there also."
Gentry said Davis will sit out one of the back-to-back set of games that begins in Phoenix and ends Saturday in Denver, but he hasn't said which game it will be.
"Obviously the team wants to play a lot of younger guys and a lot of guys' minutes have been reduced," Davis said, "but at the same time I want to be on the floor as much as I can. The team and I are working through that and figuring out the best way we can do that."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019