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Suns Strokes: Eric Bledsoe wills Suns past Blazers in OT for first win

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, left, drives against Portland Trail Blazers forward Mason Plumlee during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. Phoenix defeated Portland 118-115 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Off balance and off one foot, Eric Bledsoe hit a step-back fadeaway 25-foot 3-pointer as the overtime horn sounded to deliver the Phoenix Suns their first win of the season, a 118-115 victory against visiting Portland.

That it took five games and eight days into 2016-17 mattered little to the 17,284 in attendance at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday.

Bledsoe scored seven of his 20 points in overtime, the Suns’ second extra five-minute period already this season.

Playing their fourth straight game against a Western Conference playoff team from a year ago, the Suns (1-4) appeared to have the game won in regulation. But with 1.1 remaining, Meyers Leonard slipped a screen and went backdoor for a layup to tie the game at 103.

T.J. Warren led the Suns with 27 points, while Alex Len and Brandon Knight chipped in with 18 and 16 off the bench, respectively.

Devin Booker had 15 in his return from a one-game absence due to a sore right big toe.

Tyson Chandler added 18 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers (2-3), who played the night before, losing to Golden State in Portland, got 27 points from Damian Lillard and 24 from C.J. McCollum.

With the win, the Suns avoided what would have been their third-ever 0-5 start.

THE GOOD

After an early advantage (3-0) just 30 seconds into the game, the Suns didn’t retake the lead (26-25) until the final minute of the first quarter, when Knight hit a 16-foot pull-up jumper at the 46.9 mark. The play capped a 10-1 run, which saw Len score four of his six first-quarter points. Warren also had six in the period plus two rebounds and a steal in nine minutes.

Trailing by seven with under four minutes to play in the first half, the Suns scored 10 straight points. They closed the quarter on a 14-3 run to take a 57-53 halftime lead. Bledsoe scored five, Warren four. Warren made 6-of-11 first-half shots. He and Len, who went 4-of-8 with four free throws, each had a team-high 12 points at the break. Len also had six rebounds.

A pair of Len and-ones twice gave the Suns a five-point third-quarter lead, their largest advantage of the game up to that point. He made a two-foot layup and later banked in a five-foot jump shot, getting fouled on both plays. Len scored six in the period and led all players with 18 points, shooting 6-of-10 from the field plus 6-of-6 from the foul line, through three quarters.

They call him ‘Tony Buckets’. The name fits. Warren scored a game-high nine fourth-quarter points, making 3-of-5 field goals and three free throws. Four of his points—a pair of free throws and six-foot driving bank jump shot—came during a 10-2 run midway through the period in which the Suns erased a seven-point deficit (90-83) to take a 93-92 lead at the 2:47 mark.

THE BAD

Despite playing the night before in Portland, the Trail Blazers exploded for 14 points in the game’s first four minutes, hitting one 3-pointer after another after another after another. Lillard and Al-Farouq Aminu each hit one, while McCollum made two during what was a 14-0 Trail Blazers run to take a 14-3 lead at the 8:03 mark. McCollum scored 12 in the period.

Entering the game the Suns ranked sixth defending the 3-pointer, allowing 28.7 percent shooting. Well, when Maurice Harkless nailed his first 3 of the half, it was the Trail Blazers’ seventh make on 10 attempts. That’s 70-percent for those who don’t do math. The 3-pointer also gave the Trail Blazers their largest lead of the second quarter, 50-43, at the 4:07 mark.

Once again, Harkless found himself in the middle of a Trail Blazers run, this time in the third quarter. His 3-pointer, his second of the game, preceded a McCollum 16-foot pull-up jumper; the latter of which allowed Portland to erase a five-point deficit and re-take the lead, 62-61, at the 7:53 mark. Harkless scored five in the period, giving him eight in the game.

Putting his team on his back, Lillard scored six straight points late in the game. Each of his first two baskets—a reverse lay-up and 14-foot step-back jump shot—put the Trail Blazers ahead by four with less than two minutes remaining. Lillard, the league’s fourth-leading scorer, finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including one 3-pointer, in the period.

STAT OF THE GAME

62-38: The Suns dominated inside, outscoring the Trail Blazers by 24 points inside the painted area

HE SAID IT

“I wanted the ball, and Coach gave it to me and I delivered,” said Bledsoe, who in 11 games against the Trail Blazers as a member of the Suns is averaging 23.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals.

NOTED

– Warren now has 112 points through the team’s first five games, which is the most by a Suns player since Jason Richardson had 114 in 2010-11.

– Chandler now has 63 rebounds through the team’s first five games, which is the most by a Suns player since Shawn Marion had 65 in 2005-06.

– With Booker’s return, John Jenkins was once again inactive—he was a DNP-Coach’s Decision at the Clippers—as was rookie Derrick Jones Jr.

– Watson played the final of his 13 NBA seasons with Portland, appearing in 24 regular season games, plus four playoff appearances in 2013-14.

– Phoenix associate head coach Jay Triano served as an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers under Terry Stotts for four seasons from 2012-16.

– Phoenix wore their Los Suns uniforms to celebrate Dia de los Muertos and the first 5,000 fans received a special-edition Calaveras bobblehead.

UP NEXT

The Suns hit the road. It’s their first extended trip of the season with three games in five days.

Up first, they travel to New Orleans for a game against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans on Friday, the first of four meetings. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns bring a two-game winning streak in the series into 2016-17 as they won the final two matchups last season, including 121-100 at Smoothie King Center in their final road game of the season. In that game, Booker became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history at 19 years and 162 days old to reach 1,000 points.

Overall, the Suns, who finish the trip with stops in L.A.. to play the Lakers and Portland, have won 11 of 17 against the Pelicans.

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