(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Western Conference playoff hopefuls engage in battle Thursday in the Valley of the Sun, as the New Orleans Pelicans take on the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center.
The Pelicans and Suns are jockeying for position in the standings. New Orleans is a half-game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth spot and Phoenix is three games behind.
New Orleans will play three in a row on the road against Phoenix, Golden State and the LA Clippers, and has won two straight and four of the last five games away from the Big Easy. The Pelicans are 14-18 as the guest.
In an 85-84 victory versus the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, Eric Gordon broke an 80-80 tie with a 3-pointer at the 1:56 mark of the fourth quarter and finished with nine points. Jerryd Bayless made two foul shots before Anthony Davis knocked down a jumper for an 85-82 New Orleans cushion with 1:07 to go.
A pair of Bayless free throws pulled the Bucks within 85-84 with 34.5 seconds left. New Orleans then took the clock down at the other end, but failed to convert.
Ersan Ilyasova's 3-pointer with a second remaining was off the mark. Tyreke Evans secured the rebound and ended with 12 points, 10 boards and six assists.
"It felt like a playoff game," said Davis, who recorded 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. "That's how it's going to be from here on out. It's going to be battles."
The Pelicans, who opened the game on a 15-0 run and were 3-for-22 in the second quarter, won for the 10th time in the last 13 tries.
Phoenix is well rested and will put the finishing touches on a five-game homestand (2-2) Thursday. It worked out a 102-89 victory versus the New York Knicks on Sunday, as Eric Bledsoe lit it up to the tune of 21 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and two steals.
"It would have been great if I would have got it," Bledsoe said of a possible triple-double, "but at the end of the day we won. We've still got a fighting chance (at the playoffs)."
Bledsoe has two career triple-doubles - both this season.
Marcus Morris scored 20 points and Brandan Wright followed with 18 to go along with 11 rebounds for the Suns, who shot 49.4 percent from the field and are 6-5 in their last 11 games.
The Suns are 19-15 at home and will visit Houston on Saturday before beginning another homestand versus Dallas, Sacramento, Portland and Oklahoma City.
In injury news for the Suns, guard Brandon Knight (ankle) and center Alex Len (ankle) are questionable versus the Pelicans.
Phoenix lost the first of three matchups with New Orleans by a 110-106 score on Dec. 30 in the Big Easy. Evans scored 24 points and Davis contributed 19 to go along with 18 rebounds. Bledsoe countered with 21 points and eight assists for the Suns, who had won four straight and eight of 10 in this series.
The Suns and Pelicans will play again April 10 along the French Quarter.