Well, it wouldn’t be a Phoenix Suns game unless it was a close one.
Road or home, it apparently doesn’t matter this season.
Fresh off a six-game, nine-day road trip, the Suns beat the Orlando Magic 107-104 in front of 17,637 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday.
The Suns placed six players in double figures, including all five starters for the first time this season.
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight each scored 21 points, while Alex Len recorded his second double-double of the season with a career-high 20 points and career-high tying 14 rebounds.
Knight added six steals, matching his career-high.
Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic both chipped in 15 points, and P.J. Tucker added 11.
Teletovic hit four 3s, the fifth time he’s made four or more 3-pointers in the last seven games after not doing so once in the season’s first 16 games.
Twice, the Suns (10-13) lost double-digit leads in the fourth quarter but at no point did they trail.
With the game tied at 104 with 1:28 to play, Bledsoe—on his 26th birthday—hit a driving lay-up and made 1-of-2 free throws for the final margin of victory.
It marked the seventh straight Suns game in which the outcome was decided by five points or fewer, setting a new franchise record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Once again playing without Tyson Chandler (right hamstring strain) and also Markieff Morris (sinus infection), the Suns shot 51.3 percent, an impressive mark considering 1) they made only 1-of-10 3-point attempts in the second half and 2) the Magic (12-10) entered the night’s action with the fourth-best defense, holding opponents to 41.8 percent from the field.
The win, the Suns’ second in a row, snapped a three-game home losing streak.
– All five Suns starters had at least one field goal in the game’s first six minutes. The balanced effort gave the Suns an early 12-7 advantage, their largest of the quarter. By period’s end, eight of the nine players to see court time had scored with Leuer and Teletovic leading the way with four points. Each added a pair of rebounds as well.
– For the second time in as many weeks—and just the second time all season—Knight dunked, a sure sign his ankle is no longer a concern. The play came in the midst of a 10-2 run that saw Teletovic twice hit 3s, and the second tied the game at 39 with 4:54 remaining in the second quarter. Teletovic scored a team-high 15 points in the half.
– Trailing by four with three minutes to play in the first half, the Suns outscored the Magic 10-2 to take a 49-47 halftime lead. Teletovic and Bledsoe each hit 3s, Len dunked (Teletovic with the assist) and Tucker followed a Len miss with a two-foot tip-in lay-up as the buzzer sounded, giving the Suns their first lead of the quarter.
– First, it was Len scoring seven straight points. Then, Knight ran off nine in a row, part of his 15-point third-quarter performance, in which he made five of his seven field goal attempts. Len’s six-foot jumper gave the Suns their largest lead up until that point, 73-61, at 3:45 of the period. Len scored 11 (4-of-5 FG, 3-of-5 FT) in the quarter.
– On back-to-back first-quarter possessions, Elfrid Payton picked the pocket of Knight. Payton had four steals plus six points and four assists in the opening quarter. He, Tobias Harris (seven points) and Evan Fournier (eight points) erased the early Suns lead with a 10-1 run to go from down five to up six, 19-13, at 3:26 of the first quarter.
– A night after missing 15-of-16 3-point attempts in a win at Denver, the Magic made four of their first seven from long range against the Suns. Victor Oladipo and Shabazz Napier each hit 3s in a 48-second span; the latter of which gave Orlando a 34-25 lead at 9:00 of the second quarter. It was the Magic’s largest advantage of the first half.
– Over a six-minute stretch in the third quarter, Oladipo accounted for 14 of the Magic’s 19 points. He scored nine on three jumpers. Oladipo finished with 14 points, four rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes.
– Again, 3-point shooting kept the Magic in the game. Gordon, Mario Hezonja and Fournier hit 3s on three straight possessions, part of 13-2 run to open the fourth quarter and tie the game at 86 with 9:19 to play. The Fournier make was the team’s fifth straight. Orlando entered the game ranked 17th in 3-point shooting at 34 percent.
STAT OF THE GAME
80: In the second half, the Suns made 80 percent of their 2-point attempts, going 20-of-25; with Bledsoe, Knight and Len a combined 16-of-20
HE SAID IT
“Traditionally, that first game back from a long road trip is always the toughest,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It looked like that in the first half—guys were dead tired. Late in the third quarter when we took that big lead and got up by 10 or 12, had the opportunity to say, ‘hey take it away.’ I think we were mentally tired at that point. We blew a couple rotations and guys were wide open and they made their 3s and it kept them in the game. And then it was a battle after that.”
– The Suns improved to 7-0 against opponents playing on the second night of a back-to-back this season.
– They improved to 42-4 under Hornacek when shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
– Phoenix is 18-8 at home all-time against Orlando, winning 10 of the last 13 games.
– Chandler missed his seventh straight game—and eighth overall—though he’s looking to return later this week.
– Morris missed his fourth game of the season; he had sat out three earlier contests because of a knee injury.
The homestand continues with a visit from Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns have won each of the first two meetings this season and are going for the season sweep, which would be the first sweep by either team in the series since the Suns swept in consecutive years in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Back during the opening week of the season, the Suns and Trail Blazers played twice in two nights in two different cities.
In that second meeting, a 101-90 victory at Moda Center on Halloween night, the Suns’ backcourt duo of Bledsoe and Knight totaled 60 points on a combined 22-of-40 shooting. Bledsoe scored a game-high 33 points, recording his sixth career 30-point game. Knight added 27, including four 3-pointers.
Overall, the Suns have won nine of the last 14 and 11 of the last 17 in the series.