Suns Strokes: Lillard’s late-game heroics hand Phoenix heartbreaking loss
Late-game losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs on the road are par for the course. But losing in the fashion the Phoenix Suns did Wednesday night, well, that was nothing short of heartbreaking.
For 47 minutes and 53 seconds, Jeff Hornacek’s squad fought tooth and nail to steal a back-and-forth contest in Portland.
Eric Bledsoe was dazzling at the offensive end, scoring 23 points to go along with six assists.
Goran Dragic made his presence felt, returning to the starting lineup with 14 points, including two big three-point shots.
Gerald Green was fantastic again, pouring in 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting off the bench.
And defensively, Phoenix was tremendous, limiting the Blazers’ top three scorers — Damian Lillard, Nicholas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge — to a 12-for-42 shooting night.
But the final score wouldn’t illustrate any of that.
Following a fourth-quarter collision between Dragic and Mo Williams that sent the Suns guard to the locker room for good (stitches to repair gash above left eyebrow), the Blazers reeled off a quick 9-0 run to take a one-point lead.
After the teams went back-and-forth over the final six minutes of play, Phoenix found itself holding a one-point lead with 11 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, Lillard received a perfect screen at the top of the key from Aldridge. With the pick taking Bledsoe out of the play, the Suns’ last line of defense was Channing Frye.
Frye, however, chose to follow Aldridge out beyond the three-point arc, leaving Lillard with an easy uncontested layup with six seconds remaining.
On the Suns’ final offensive possession, Bledsoe drove past Batum and put up what looked to be the go-ahead basket but his right-handed layup rolled off the rim. Both P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris had point blank put back opportunities, but neither converted on their attempts.
Lillard’s bucket held up as the game-winner, as Portland survived in a 90-89 thriller over Phoenix.
Portland came into the contest averaging 104.1 points per game. In two games against the Suns, though, the Blazers have averaged just 90.5 points per game.
In all three of the Suns’ losses in 2013-14, they have either had a lead or been tied in the last five minutes of the contest. In fact, their margin of defeat is a slim 3.6 points per loss.
Markieff Morris’ streak of three straight games with 20 or more points ended Wednesday. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week had eight points on 3-of-8 shooting.
Channing Frye (two points on 1-of-6 shooting) has failed to reach double-digit scoring in eight of nine games this season.
STAT OF THE GAME
Former Sun Robin Lopez grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds, and in the process didn’t commit a single foul.
HE SAID IT
“I thought Eric got fouled. Batum was riding him the whole time, and then when he went up for the shot you could see Eric’s body get shoved to the side. Then we had some tip opportunities that were point blank.” — Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek on final possession
– Since the start of the 2008-09 season, the Suns are 1-8 in Portland.
– Gerald Green has scored in double figures in six straight games this season. In 2012-13, he scored in double figures in only 10 games.
Former Sun Jason Kidd returns to the Valley for the first time as a head coach, as Phoenix hosts the Brooklyn Nets (2-5) Friday night at U.S. Airways Center. The game tips off at 7:00 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.