Bledsoe Game-Winner Lifts Suns Over Jazz
Eric Bledsoe had dreamed of hitting a game-winner in the NBA since he was a kid. Friday night, he got his wish — and made it real.
The fourth-year guard hit nothing but net from straight away with 0.7 seconds left to give the Suns an 87-84 home win over Utah. The shot sends Phoenix into a three-game road trip with a perfect 2-0 start to the season, something for which Bledsoe is greatly responsible.
“It feels great,” Bledsoe said. “I was preparing all summer. All summer I was working and to finally get this opportunity is a blessing.”
Bledsoe’s heroics were a quarter-long affair. The 6-1 guard scored 17 of his 18 points in the final period, including all of the Suns’ last 14 points. He added six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
The Suns had overcame a slow start and a disadvantage on the rebounds. Utah came up with 22 offensive rebounds, but Phoenix countered with defense, coming away with double-digit blocks (10) and steals (10).
Miles Plumlee continued his scintillating start to the season by logging his second double-double in a row.
The second-year center finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, starting the game the same way he did the season opener – with a two-handed dunk.
“Miles, he’s so athletic, you have to honor the possibility of a lob,” Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Eric, obviously he played with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, similar-type guys in their athleticism. He knows how to do that. I’m sure they did that in practice all the time [in Los Angeles]. He’s got that good feeling with Miles on when to throw the lob and maybe when to just hit him regularly.”
After suffering through a 14-point second quarter, Phoenix received a huge boost from its bench in the third. Ish Smith filled in for Goran Dragic, who was forced to leave the game after a loose-ball collision with teammate P.J. Tucker. Smith’s speed and activity helped the Suns pick up the pace and kick-start their transition game.
Dionte Christmas was the main beneficiary, ripping off a personal 7-0 run. He hit a long jumper, a three-pointer and went to the line for a pair of free throws while providing pesky defense on the other end. The long-distance shooter finished with nine points and four rebounds in just 15 minutes of playing time.
“I knew [when I came in] that we needed a spark. We needed some energy,” Christmas said. “We weren’t really playing energetic like we did the first game. That’s the type of guy I am. I’m energetic. I’m always ready. I’ve been waiting for this all my life. [Coach Hornacek] threw my out there and I just made the best of it.”
Hornacek admitted he’d like the team to not need an injection of energy, but lauded them for overcoming it with effort when it mattered most.
“I will say that we just didn’t have it tonight,” Hornacek said. “We didn’t have the energy. They were outhustling us to balls. But somehow our guys sucked it up in that fourth quarter and ended up pulling it out. We were proud of them for that.”