Suns Strokes: Eric Bledsoe commands Phoenix past Pistons
PHOENIX — In these moments, Eric Bledsoe wants the ball. No, he demands the ball.
The Phoenix Suns are his team, and Bledsoe proved it with his play, coming up big time after time in the fourth quarter.
He scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the final period to help rally the Suns past the Detroit Pistons in front of an announced crowd of 16,719 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday night.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Pistons winless in four road games.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back, the Suns (3-6) started slow, as they had done the night before in Portland, this time falling behind by as many as 11 points in the first quarter.
They trailed by 18 in an eventual loss to the Blazers, but it was a different story on this night.
Jared Dudley, in just his second game off the bench, exploded for 15 second-quarter points as the Suns outscored the Pistons 35-23 to take a three-point lead at halftime.
The Pistons (4-4) used a 14-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to take a six-point lead before Bledsoe put the Suns on his back.
Three other starters scored in double figures: T.J. Warren (18), Alex Len (16) and Devin Booker (11).
Len added 14 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Bledsoe, meanwhile, ended his night two assists shy of a triple-double, with 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Dudley finished with 19 points and Brandon Knight 14 as the Suns bench outperformed the Pistons bench, 41-21.
Detroit was led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (27 points), Andre Drummond (18 and 14 rebounds) and Marcus Morris (16), the former Sun who was booed every time he touched the ball.
The Suns had lost three straight to the Pistons.
Early on, the Suns showed no signs of fatigue, especially Warren, who made each of his first three shot attempts. His six quick points — a seven-foot floater, 18-foot jumper and 15-foot fastbreak pull-up jumper — nearly accounted for half of the Suns’ 14 points in the game’s first five minutes. Warren also added a rebound and blocked shot for one of the few bright spots in the quarter.
After a two-point, 22-minute effort the night before, Dudley exploded for 15 of his game-high 16 first-half points in the second quarter. He made his first five shot attempts, including a trio of threes, each one putting the Suns ahead; the latter of which made it 49-47 at the 3:16 mark. The Suns would not trail the rest of the period. Dudley also added a pair of rebounds and one block shot.
Leading by three late in the third quarter, Knight accounted for the Suns’ next eight points to hand the team its largest lead of the game, 78-69, at the 1:01 mark. He hit a 24-foot step-back 3-pointer, completed a three-point play and assisted on Len’s two-foot lay-up to cap the 8-2 Suns’ run. Knight had 14 points, on 5-of-9 shooting, three assists and one rebound through three quarters.
Down six with 8:40 left in the game, the Suns went on a 13-1 run over the next 4:26 to take a 96-90 lead at the 4:14 mark. They never led by fewer than three points from that moment on. Bledsoe had eight points, including a run of six straight during this stretch. Solid defense also played a factor as Booker, Dudley and P.J. Tucker each had steals. The Suns had seven total steals.
It wasn’t bad, it was just plain awful how the Suns closed out the first quarter. They missed 13 straight shot attempts, going the final 7:06 without a made field goal. For the period, the Suns shot 6-of-22 (27.3 percent), including a 1-of-16 stretch in which they were outscored 13-3, allowing the Pistons to take a 28-17 lead, their largest of the quarter, with 30.3 seconds left to play.
Playing for just the second time back in Phoenix since the trade, Morris took great enjoyment in one second-quarter stretch. First, he stole a Bledsoe pass. Then, he dunked on the fastbreak, taking a few steps toward the booing crowd as Len was called for a foul. Morris hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. He had five points in the period and a team-best 11 at halftime.
Credit Caldwell-Pope for keeping the Pistons within striking distance after three quarters. He scored 11 in the period, hitting a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which beat the final buzzer as he pulled up from 26-feet away on the fastbreak, the ball falling through the net with 0.1 of a second remaining. Caldwell-Pope led all players with 20 points through three quarters.
STAT OF THE GAME
100, 36.0: The Suns limited the Pistons to opponent season lows of 100 points and 36 percent shooting from the field
HE SAID IT
“This is a big win for our young group,” head coach Earl Watson said. “Proud of our guys for bouncing back and our bench mob came in today and plus 20, 41-21 off the bench, that’s a big turnaround for us off the bench. Last two games have been plus 20 almost so, we’re very excited about our veteran, young group, with Dragan (Bender) being 18 it kind of brings the ages down, so, we’re positive that it’s a positive thing for us moving forward.”
– Len started in place of Tyson Chandler who missed his second straight game after the passing of his mother, who lost her battle to cancer.
– After winning their last outing on Nov. 2, the Suns have now won consecutive home games for the first time since Dec. 13-18 of last year.
– The Pistons’ roster had four ex-Suns players, including starters Ish Smith and Marcus Morris plus Reggie Bullock (injured) and Jon Leuer.
– It was College Night as the first 2,000 fans in attendance received a Retro Suns Tank Top featuring the sunburst logo that debuted in ’92.
The brief two-game homestand closes with a visit from Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, Nov. 12. It’s the Nets’ only appearance of the season in the Valley.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Nets swept both meetings last season, including handing the Suns their franchise-record eighth consecutive home loss on Feb. 25, when they led by as many as 25 and ultimately settled for a 10-point victory, 116-106.
Overall, the Nets have won seven of the last nine in the series.