Suns Strokes: Bledsoe, Suns outgrit Pistons in hard-fought win
"Every win ain't going to be pretty," Eric Bledsoe said after the Suns beat the Detroit Pistons, 98-92.
The Suns certainly aren't going to apologize for this one or any victory moving forward as they try to make the playoffs.
The win, their second straight and fourth in five games overall, placed the Suns within a half-game of eighth place Memphis, which lost at Miami.
Bledsoe scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. He tied the game at 82 with a driving layup with 6:09 to play, gave the Suns an 86-84 lead on a running jump shot with 5:03 to play and then gave the Suns the lead for good at 89-86 with a three-pointer with 3:22 to play.
Bledsoe made five-of-six shots in the quarter, part of an eight-of-16 performance that also included five assists and five rebounds.
"I think I had a better feel today," he said. "Instead of just coming out and just forcing stuff, I kind of played with a little more rhythm."
Goran Dragic added 20 points, improving the Suns to 5-0 when the two point guards each finish with at least 20 points. The duo last did so on December 28 vs. Philadelphia.
The Suns, who led by as many as 12 points, won with defense down the stretch. The Pistons, losers of their last 12 on the road, missed 14 of their final 18 attempts and shot only 29.2 percent in the fourth quarter. "We did a nice job at the end really scrapping, making tough shots and we got the boards at the key times," head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Plumlee's alley-oop dunk on a pass from Bledsoe punctuated a 14-3 run to open the second half. Plumlee scored half the Suns points during the run which gave them their largest lead of the game, 65-53 at the 8:01 mark of the third quarter.
Plumlee finished with 11 points and has now recorded two straight games with 10 or more points for the first time since January 22 vs. Indiana and January 24 vs. Washington.
Dragic was responsible for nine of the Suns' first 12 points. He scored six and assisted on a PJ Tucker three. Dragic finished the first quarter with 12 points and that one assist.
Markieff Morris scored 16 points and has now reached double figures in 30 of his last 32 games.
Gerald Green scored nine of his 12 points in the second quarter.
Tucker tied his career-high with three made three-pointers.
After taking their largest lead of the game, the Suns missed seven straight shots, going more than five minutes without a field goal and watched the Pistons go on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 67 with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
The Pistons used a 9-2 run and 9-0 advantage on second chance points to take a 27-26 lead after the first quarter, the fifth time in seven games the Suns did not hold the lead after the opening quarter.
The Pistons scored 30 of their 50 first half points in the paint.
The Suns missed 11 of their 35 free throw attempts.
Josh Smith was 0-of-8 from the foul line.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Pistons shot 10-of-26 from the free throw line, a 38.5 percent mark. In the NBA dating back to the 1985-86 season, the performance ties for the second-lowest percentage by a team attempting at least 26 free throws. On February 11, 2005, the Miami Heat shot 37.0 percent (10-of-27) at Charlotte, and on November 9, 1991,the Sacramento Kings also shot 38.5 percent (10-of-26) versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.
HE SAID IT
"I'm sure there have been games but it just seemed like miss after miss like 'C'mon now, it's a free throw those are easy.' I don't know if it's in their head or what, but to me it's just go up there and shoot with confidence. Go up there and believe you're going to make the shot," Hornacek said.
Markieff Morris picked up his 12th technical foul of the season, which is the fourth-most in the NBA. He and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were whistled for double-Ts after exchanging words midway through the second quarter.
It certainly wasn't because of the opponent but thanks to "Star Wars" Night the Suns sold out their second game of the season. The first was back on February 21 against San Antonio.
The Suns head back out on the road. The three-game, four-day trip begins in Minnesota on Sunday, March 23. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. This game is the final of three meeting this season with the Suns winning the first on a Green jumper in the final five seconds and the Timberwolves winning the next in Phoenix.
Craig Grialou, Reporter
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