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Suns Strokes: Blazers burn Phoenix in fourth for win

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, center, drives between Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, left, and guard C.J. McCollum, right, in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Well, at least the Phoenix Suns avoided a close ballgame.

That streak is over. So too is their modest two-game winning streak.

Despite a game-high 31 points from Eric Bledsoe, the Suns dropped a 106-96 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers in front of 17,028 on Star Wars Night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

It was Bledsoe’s eighth career 30-point game—third this season—with four of those coming against the Trail Blazers.

With the game tied at 89, Portland (10-14) went on a 13-0 run, part of a larger 18-3 stretch to pull away and snap a two-game losing streak, beating the Suns for the first time in three tries this season.

The Suns (10-14) were outscored 28-14 in the fourth quarter.

The 14 points were a season-low for fourth-quarter scoring.

C.J. McCollum scored 26, while Damian Lillard added 18 to pace the Trail Blazers, who avoided the season series sweep.

The two combined to shoot 18-of-36, besting their backcourt counterparts.

Bledsoe tied his career-high of 12 field goals made and set a new career-high with 26 field goal attempts; all of which was necessary given Brandon Knight’s struggles.

Knight missed every one of his 12 shots, including eight from beyond the arc. He did, however, have 10 assists.

The Suns had played a franchise-record seven straight games decided by five points or fewer.


Bledsoe accounted for 16 of the Suns’ 26 first-quarter points. He scored seven—though he missed six of his nine shot attempts—and set up his teammates for nine more. Arguably the best of his four assists was a feed inside to Cory Jefferson for a dunk. As a team, the Suns assisted on 10 of their 12 made field goals in the first 12 minutes.

Entering the game, Devin Booker had made 15 of his 21 3-point shots. He then hit his first two attempts upon entering the second quarter, pushing his percentage to 73.9 to begin his career. Later in the period, Ronnie Price knocked down a pair of 3s (in 56 seconds), matching his total from his previous eight games combined (2-of-14).

Down six with 7:10 to play in the third quarter, the Suns outscored the Trail Blazers 15-5 the rest of the way to take an 82-78 lead into the final period. Bledsoe had 10 points and a steal, shooting 4-of-8 including 2-of-4 from 3. He added three rebounds in his 12 minutes. Through three quarters, Bledsoe had 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting.

Mirza Teletovic scored 15 points, nine in the first half, on 5-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. He has now scored in double-digits in four straight games, tying the longest such streak of his career. With the four 3-pointers, Teletovic has reached that mark for the sixth time this season, all in the last eight games.

Alex Len and Jon Leuer each scored 13 points. Len extended his career long streak of scoring 10 or more points in a game to four games in a row, while Leuer (6-of-8 FG) reached his sixth consecutive game scoring in double-digits. This is Leuer’s second-longest such streak of his career, now just one game shy of his career-long.


With the game tied at 17, the Trail Blazers went on a 10-2 run punctuated by Allen Crabbe’s 25-foot 3-pointer, his second in as many possessions, for a 27-19 lead at 3:23 of the first quarter. Crabbe scored 10 unanswered points, all coming in a four-minute stretch to close the period. He was 4-of-6, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.

It was a struggle shooting the ball for Knight in the first half. He missed all eight of his shots, including five 3-point attempts. He also fouled McCollum on a made 3. McCollum hit the free throw for a four-point play and 39-35 Trail Blazers lead at 9:20 of the second quarter. Knight made up for his lack of shooting touch with eight assists.

McCollum made his fourth 3 of the game to give the Trail Blazers a 73-67 lead at 7:10 of the third quarter. It capped a 10-0 run in which McCollum also hit an 18-foot step-back jumper, assisted on a Al-Farouq Aminu 3-pointer and picked Knight’s pocket for his first steal of the game. McCollum also added a rebound in the period.


35: The total number of points the Suns scored in both the second quarter (a season high) and second half (a season low)

HE SAID IT, part 1

“They were taking it to us, we couldn’t stop them; C.J. McCollum got hot, Damian was being aggressive and then when they were missing, we gave them some offensive rebounds,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “So just a combination of a lot of things and we couldn’t score.”

HE SAID IT, part 2

“We need his scoring obviously with how we play,” Hornacek said, referring to Knight. “We were trying to get him to stay aggressive at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but he was just kind of dribbling around and not looking for the shot. Hopefully you keep taking them and then you make one or two and you get going, but unfortunately tonight he was never able to get going.”


– The Suns set a season-high for points in the first half with 61, but then followed it up with a season-low for points in the second half with 35 after the break.

– Markieff Morris, over his sinus infection, was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the second time in three games he’s been active.

– Tyson Chandler (right hamstring strain) missed his eighth straight game, erring on the side of caution after testing the leg 90 minutes before game time.

– Award-winning rapper 50 Cent handled Suns’ players introductions; he was in town for the opening of the new EFFEN Vodka Lounge inside the arena.

– A moment of silence was held prior to tip-off for Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, a 12-time NBA All-Star, who died Thursday at the age of 87.


The Suns wrap up a three-game homestand with their first meeting of the season against Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, Dec. 13. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.—yes, an afternoon start—with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

Three more match-ups are scheduled.

The Suns won the season series 3-1 in 2014-15, with their lone loss coming by just two points in Minnesota.

In the most recent meeting, a 106-97 Suns victory on March 15 at then-named US Airways Center, T.J. Warren turned in the best performance of his young career, scoring 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting in just 19 minutes to become the only rookie last season to score 17 or more points while playing fewer than 20 minutes.

Overall, the Suns have won 16 of the past 22 games against the Timberwolves.

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