Suns Lose Heartbreaker at Portland

by Matt Petersen

The Suns couldn't have asked for closer shots in a game-winning situation than the ones they created on Wednesday night in Portland, nor imagined a more painful way to miss them.

Eric Bledsoe got all the way to the rim. When his layup rimmed out, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris each had point-blank tip-in attempts in heavy traffic.

Both hung tantalizingly on the rim before falling out.

The result was heartbreaking 90-89 loss for Phoenix. It was very nearly an inspiring victory, one that overcame stitches and a premature exit for Goran Dragic as well as rough night on offense (43 percent shooting).

As they have done so many times already this season, Phoenix kept themselves in and controlled most of the game with defense. They held the Blazers to 41 percent shooting. They limited LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to a combined 23 points after the duo went off for 60 in their last meeting. They came up with 11 steals.

After the Suns defense stood solid for over 47 minutes, it faltered just enough with 6.5 seconds left, when Lillard took advantage of a Phoenix miscommunication and scored the go-ahead layup.

Eric Bledsoe nearly stole the crunch time cape again, but his layup rolled around the front of the rim and fell off, and the attempted tip-ins by his teammates in traffic also failed to cooperate.

The outcome was sobering for a Suns team that arrived at Portland having won three of their last four games. They encountered a Blazers team that was similarly energized after a better-than-expected start to the season.

Yet Phoenix stifled that energy from the get-go, holding Portland to under 40 percent shooting in the first half. Eric Bledsoe continued to pick apart bigger defenders who switched on the pick-and-roll, finishing with 23 points.

The momentum cruelly shifted at the peak of a Suns run in the third quarter. After the Blazers had taken a brief one-point lead, Goran Dragic hit back-to-back threes and then helped force a turnover that led to a Gerald Green three-pointer.

The caused turnover, however, ended the night for Dragic, who suffered a face-to-face collision with Mo Williams. The Slovenian point guard began bleeding immediately, received 13 stitches above his eye and did not return.

The game continued to be hotly contested in the fourth quarter. After Robin Lopez (13 points, 15 rebounds) tipped in a missed Blazer attempt late in the game, Bledsoe missed a contested layup. Marcus Morris crashed the boards and dished the ball to Dionte Christmas, who missed a jumper from the free throw line. P.J. Tucker then stripped the ball away from Lopez, giving the Suns yet another possession.

This time they cashed in, with Bledsoe finding a diving Miles Plumlee (10 points, 10 rebounds)for a hook shot over Lopez with 11 seconds left.

Phoenix will look to rebound on Friday when they host Brooklyn at US Airways Center.