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Suns Strokes: Phoenix pulls away from Flamengo in fourth quarter

PHOENIX — The opponent mattered little, just so long as the Phoenix Suns saw a different-colored uniform on the opposite end of the court.

After a week-long training camp in Flagstaff and two more days of practice in Valley, the Suns were anxious to face someone other than themselves.

“We’ve gotten a little sick of going at each other,” center Miles Plumlee said beforehand.

It may have been the fans who felt sick, at times, while watching Wednesday’s exhibition, a 100-88 Suns victory over Brazilian club team Flamengo at US Airways Center.

“We should be better, definitely,” Goran Dragic said. “We didn’t play well.”

Newcomer Isaiah Thomas, acquired in the offseason via a sign-and-trade deal with Sacramento, scored a game-high 18 points (5-of-9 field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers), all of which came in the second half, including 10 straight during one fourth-quarter stretch which gave the Suns some much-needed separation.

“With me, all I just need is to see one shot go in, and then it can change the whole aspect of the game,” he said, alluding to his 0-of-3 first half shooting. “Guys just kept telling me to shoot with confidence. That’s what I did. I got a shot (to go in) in the third quarter, and then it felt kind of good the rest of the game.”

Missed layups and dropped passes contributed to sloppy play on occasion as the Suns turned it over 21 times, including on three of their first four possessions of the game.

“We were a step slow on everything,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I would expect us to be a little bit better than that the first game … To me, it almost looked like we were tired.”

Trailing 30-22 early in the second quarter, the Suns went on a 12-3 run to take their first lead of the game, thanks to a lineup featuring Markieff Morris at center, something Hornacek said he might experiment with for brief periods this season.

Four other Suns players joined Thomas in double figures: Eric Bledsoe (15), Markieff Morris (13), Gerald Green (13) and Marcus Morris (10) — the latter of which added seven rebounds and four steals, both game-highs.

Bledsoe’s nine-point, four-rebound and one-assist second quarter performance put the Suns up 54-43 at the half.

The advantage evaporated in the third quarter when, once again, the Suns starters struggled.

“We just didn’t make shots (and) make plays, and they did,” Bledsoe said. “But I think the second team came in (and) did a great job of pushing the lead up.”

Hornacek inserted Thomas, Green and Archie Goodwin, which spurred a 17-0 run that was capped by Green’s alley-oop lay-up from P.J. Tucker to go up 80-66 with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Alex Len (right hand fifth finger fracture) and Anthony Tolliver (right hand laceration) did not dress for the exhibition, although Tolliver may be able to play Friday against Denver.

The game, in front of an announced crowd of 8,041, marked the first time a South American club played an NBA team in the U.S.

“We knew they were pretty good,” Bledsoe said, before adding with a smile, “We didn’t want to end up like the Spurs, (to have their) first preseason game to an overseas team and lose [94-93 to Alba Berlin]. We didn’t want to end up like that.”