Updates from Friday, Feb. 28
According to Robert Baum of the Associated Press, Goran Dragic will return to action tonight:
Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic has been ruled out for Wednesday night's game against the Utah Jazz after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday's 110-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to general manager Ryan McDonough.
Burns and Gambo of 98.7 FM in Phoenix spoke with McDonough early in the afternoon, and he broke the news of Dragic and guard Leandro Barbosa's absences:
Dragic twisted his ankle in the third quarter Tuesday night, while attempting to get around Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. He was in obvious pain on the court, but continued to play intermittently throughout the rest of the game. Ish Smith came in with 3:46 remaining in the fourth after Dragic fouled out, finishing with 16 points in just 25 minutes.
While Dragic was able to play, ankle injuries are typically better diagnosed the day after. That's when swelling and soreness begin to set in. Teams sometimes like to keep a player with a sprained ankle on the floor the night of his injury to keep it "loose." Head coach Jeff Hornacek said before Wednesday night's game Dragic wanted to play, indicating an injury of only minor severity.
“You know Goran, he wants to try, but it makes sense to keep him out,” Hornacek said, per Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “It’s pretty sore and swollen. He’ll stay out tonight and maybe we’ll get him back for Friday.”
The injury is terrible timing for Dragic, who has been playing the best basketball of his career the last couple months. The 27-year-old Slovenian set his career high with 35 points in Sunday's 115-112 loss to the Houston Rockets, and he's been particularly hot since being snubbed for the Western Conference All-Star team.
Dragic probably would have been in line for a stellar performance again Wednesday, with the Jazz ranking dead last in defensive efficiency, per NBA.com. For the season, Dragic is averaging 20.2 points and 6.2 assists on a career-high 50.8 percent shooting. Phoenix scores 10.6 points more per 100 possessions when Dragic is on the floor, per NBA.com, essentially the difference between being the best offense in basketball and one of the worst.
Losing Dragic will obviously hurt, but Utah is 20-36. The Suns, even as they battle toward the bottom of the Western playoff picture, can probably afford to sit him out for at least this game. Things might get a little trickier when they return home for a game against the Pelicans on Friday.
With Eric Bledsoe also out with injury, Ish Smith will move into the starting lineup. Archie Goodwin should also see increased playing time.
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