PHOENIX (AP) - Goran Dragic almost didn’t play Friday night.
On a bad ankle, with his Phoenix team needing to end a three-game skid, he decided to give it a try.
The result was a career-high 40-point performance in 42 minutes, leading the Suns past the New Orleans Pelicans 116-104.
“I think everybody knows about Goran Dragic now,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, “or they should.”
A game-time decision because of a sore right ankle that had kept him out of Wednesday’s loss at Utah, Dragic played all but the last 10 seconds of the second half in the first 40-point game for a Phoenix player since Amare Stoudemire’s 44 on March 19, 2010.
“That’s what All-Stars do,” Hornacek said, a not-so-veiled reference to Dragic being left off the All-Star team.
At the end, as Dragic sank the free throws that got him to 40, the crowd chanted “M-V-P.”
“I never imagined they would cheer that for me,” Dragic said. “It is a great feeling, especially with those last four free throws when the whole crowd stood up and cheered. It is something special in my career that I will remember my whole life.”
Anthony Davis, also a game-time decision because of a sprained left shoulder, matched his career high with 32 points for the Pelicans, who lost their sixth in a row.
Markieff Morris added 18 points and twin brother Marcus 15 for Phoenix.
Eric Gordon scored 21 for New Orleans.
“We just couldn’t get the stops, we just couldn’t get the ball,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “Dragic was in our paint all night long. He’s a really good player, but we could have done a better job.”
Dragic, who had expressed some doubt after the morning shootaround that he would be able to play, had a career-best 35 in the Suns’ loss to Houston on Sunday. He hurt his ankle in the home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.
He had 15 points in the first quarter, 25 in the second half, including 13 in the fourth quarter, surpassing 30 points in a game for the eighth time this season.
Phoenix took control with a 17-1 fourth-quarter run. Dragic banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then sank an 18-footer to cap the outburst and put the Suns ahead 105-92 with 4:33 left.