The Suns’ season-opening win flowed like it followed the staff’s script. The second act was not a path they would have drawn up but it still made for another surprising win — an 87-84 Suns victory over coach Jeff Hornacek’s old Utah Jazz squad at US Airways Center. With Goran Dragic exiting with a head bruise from a collision with P.J. Tucker, Eric Bledsoe was left to save their off-shooting night that had them missing 19 of the starting backcourt’s first 22 shots. He stayed the course to make the ones that counted most. Bledsoe scored the Suns’ final 14 points and made his last four shots from the field, including a 3-pointer that broke a tie with seven-tenths of a second remaining. A day after the Suns passed on signing him to a contract extension, Bledsoe was money to close the game by walking down the clock before pulling up for a straightaway 3 over Utah’s Gordon Hayward. Hayward stepped out of bounds on the Jazz’s last-second chance to re-tie the game and the Suns moved to 2-0, a record that has led to a Suns playoff season in the previous 10 occurrences. Bledsoe finished with 18 points, six assists, five rebounds and five turnovers, but what mattered most is what he started doing with 4:02 to go in the game. After he made his fifth turnovers and was sitting at one-for-11 shooting, a Suns set broke down and Bledsoe created a powerful driving take against Utah’s John Lucas III for a 3-point play that tied the game. Two plays later, Bledsoe hit his first 3 of the season after eight other tries. He then drew a foul and later split Utah’s coverage on a screen for another two free throws off of his drive. His only slight misstep late was making one of two free throws when he was intentionally fouled with 30.4 seconds to go, leaving the Suns lead at 84-81. Hayward answered with a game-tying step-back 3 against P.J. Tucker to set up Bledsoe’s heroics back at him. The Suns backcourt went from dismantling Portland to being destructive at times Friday night. Bledsoe and Dragic were ice-cold, as was the team from 3-point range again. Dragic left for good early in the third quarter because of a second-quarter head bruise after giving a comeback a try for three minutes. The Suns went to Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas for the first times and were rewarded with Christmas’ seven unanswered points on his first entry in the third quarter and five rebounds in 12 minutes from Smith, the smallest of the Suns. Utah had three players post double-doubles and had 19 second-chance points but only shot 36.5 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free throw line. Suns center Miles Plumlee followed up his stunning debut with another double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds). He scored more points in his first half than he did in his rookie season and now he has more rebounds in two games than he did last season.
Bledsoe hits game winner, leads Suns past the Jazz
Arizona Republic | Nov 2